American Manhood: Transformations In Masculinity From The Revolution To The Modern Era 0465014097, 9780465014095

In the first comprehensive history of American manhood, E. Anthony Rotundo sweeps away the groundless assumptions and my

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American Manhood: Transformations In Masculinity From The Revolution To The Modern Era
 0465014097, 9780465014095

Table of contents :
Contents
Preface
Introduction : Toward a History of American Manhood
1 Community to Individual: The Transformation of Manhood at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century
2 Boy Culture
3 Male Youth Culture
4 Youth and Male Intimacy
5 The Development of Men’s Attitudes toward Women
6 Love, Sex, and Courtship
7 Marriage
8 Work and Identity
9 The Male Culture of the Workplace
10 Passionate Manhood: A Changing Standard of Masculinity
11 Roots of Change: The Women Without and the Woman Within
Epilogue: Manhood in the Twentieth Century
Appendix: The Parameters of the Study
Notes
Index

Citation preview

AMERICAN MANHOOD

American Manhood Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era

E. A N T H O N Y ROTUNDO

BASIC

B

BOOKS

A Member of the Perseus Books Group

Portions o f chapter 2 appeared in Mark C. Carnes and Clyde Griffen, eds., Mean­ ings fo r Manhood: Constructions o f M asculinity tn Victorian America, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press. © 1990 by The University o f Chicago. All rights re­ served. Portions o f chapter 4 appeared as “Romantic Friendship: Male Intim acv and Middle-Class Youth in the N orthern United States, 1800-1900,” in Journal o f Social History, 23(1), Fall 1989,1-25.

Copyright © 1993 bv BasicBooks All nghts reserved. Printed m the United States o f America. No part o f tlus book tnav lie reproduced m anv m anner whatsoever without w ritten permission except m the case of b n ef quotations em bodied in critical articles and reviews. For informa­ tion, address BasicBooks. 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299. Designed by Eden Levine U brarvof Congress Catakiging-m -Publkation Data Rotundo, E. Anthonv American manhood: transform ations m masculinity from tlie Revolution to the m odem era / E. Anthonv Rotundo, p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-465-01409-7 (cloth) ISBN 0-465-00169-6 (paper) 1. Men—United States—History— 19th centurv. 2. Masculinity (Psychology)— United States—History—19th centurv. I. Title. HQ1090.3.R69 1993 305.320973—dc20 92-53247 CIP

To my mother, Barbara Rotundo, and to the memory of my father, Joseph Rotundo

CONTENTS

Preface

IX

Introduction : Toward a History o f American Manhood

I

1

Community to Individual: The Transformation o f M anhood at the Turn o f the N ineteenth Century

10

2

Boy Culture

31

3

Male Youth Culture

56

4

Youth and Male Intimacy

75

5

The D evelopm ent o f M en’s Attitudes toward W omen

92

6

Love, Sex, and Courtship

109

7

Marnage

129

8

Work and Identity

167

9

The M ale Culture o f the W orkplace

194

10

Passionate Manhood: A Changing Standard o f M asculinity

222

II

Roots o f Change: The W om en W ithout and the Woman W ithin

247

VIH

CONTENTS

Epilogue: M anhood in the Tw entieth Century

284

Appendix: The Parameters o f the Study

294

Notes

299

Index

365

PREFACE

T

I HIS book began fourteen years ago. Fascinated by what I learned from reading the new womens history, I wondered what would happen if I tried to study mens past in the same way. I was eager to study men as people, not public actors; to learn about men out of the historical spot­ light as well as in it; to understand men as men, as one sex in contrast to the other. My curiosity turned into a research project. I decided to study man­ hood among the most influential group of Americans in the nineteenth century: white, middle-class, Yankee Northerners (I explain this choice more fully in the appendix). In the first stage of the project, I sought to understand manhood through the letters and diaries of men and their families. This private writing took me as close to the feelings, attitudes, and daily experiences of men as I could get, and the insights I gained form the core of this book. As my work evolved, however, I realized that I needed an understanding of many elements in men’s lives that were not addressed in letters or diaries, vital elements such as boyhood expe­ rience, sexuality, and life in the workplace. For this I turned to many other sources, including autobiographies, printed advice to men, and re­ search by early social scientists. As I have pursued this research and then turned to writing, my think­ ing about manhood has been influenced by certain ideas about gender that I would like to share with the reader. These principles, which were really hypotheses that I learned from historians of women, were sup-

X

PREFACE

ported time and time again by my explorations of manhood. I have learned that gender ranks with race, region, class, and ethnic back­ ground as one of the great cleavages that divide society, and that the val­ ues, behavior, and life opportunities of people on one side of this cleav­ age are distinctly different from those of people on the other side. I have also been reminded of important facts that I took for granted: that gen­ der is the basis for a system of personal relationships that order the lives of most human beings and promise emotional sustenance; and that gen­ der is the basis for contrasting images, labeled male and female, which guide our behavior and shape our view of the world. My work and the work of others has also confronted me with the fact that gender provides the foundation for a system of power relations, a senes of political and economic distinctions based on sex. Yet, while this is a book about gender as a cultural, social, and political force, it is also a book about individual people and about the way partic­ ular men created their manhood within the limits of their time and place. As I have tned to understand the kinds of decisions that middleclass men made in the nineteenth century, I often found myself thinking of an image from the mythology of my own family. It is an image from my early boyhood in which I am setting off hand in hand with two of my uncles for a walk downtown. On one side of me is my Uncle Min, a politician and a hunchback who never grew to a full five feet. On the other side of me is my Uncle Tick, a fireman and a former athlete, tall and strong. Both Min and Tick were respected as men by the people who knew them, but they had veiy different tasks m adapting to the complex codes of manhood that governed their lives. I hope that tins book, which by its veiy nature is full of broad statements about man­ hood, respects men’s varied needs and possibilities. The image of my uncles and me has also provided me with another sort of reminder. Those two men who held my hands both influenced the man I grew up to be. Different as they were, they were just two models among many in my life. There is, in fact, a profusion of ideals, values, and role models that make up my own manhood. Some of these elements cohere nicely, but some are discordant. As I have written this book, I have been more aware of my inner discord on issues of manhood than of my inner coherence. To the extent that manhood in our time is about achievement, reason, and inner strength, I’m comfortable tiymg to be a man. But to the extent that I’ve internalized manly ideals of an­ tagonism, personal isolation, and the suffocation of tenderness, I find myself at war with the ideals I’ve learned. I want to live m a world where more uncles take the hands of their nephews (or nieces) for a walk

PREFACE

xi

downtown—and where they feel manly for doing it. In the end. I’m sure that my nagging disputes with manhood in our own time had a lot to do with my desire to write this book.

Anyone who works on a book for fourteen years is bound to accumulate many debts—financial, intellectual, and personal. I am happy to make here a public acknowledgment of mine. Grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Institute’s Gender Roles Grant program gave me invaluable time to write. Phillips Academy’s generous sabbatical program provided me with a year to work on my book. I also benefitted from a summer study grant from the William R. Kenan, Jr., Charitable Trust Program and from a Crown Supplemental Grant to do research while I was a graduate student. Indeed, the Crown Fellowship Program supported my whole education as a historian at Brandéis University. A visiting fellow­ ship from the Transformation of Philadelphia Project (at the Philadel­ phia Center for Early American Studies) was a stimulus at a turning point m this book’s development. I am indebted to many people who provided me with vital services in the writing of this book. The staffs at dozens of historical societies whose names are listed in the notes helped me in countless ways. I am grateful to the librarians at the Goldfarb Library at Brandéis for their help, and to my fnends who work at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library at Phillips Academy for their warm and efficient support. I owe great thanks to Jan Lisiak and her staff at Phillips’s Computer Literacy Center for their pa­ tient and timely help with computer problems of all sorts. And Judy Saladini, Kathryn Wright, and Alma Beck were efficient and uncomplaining in typing my eccentric handwriting onto disk. I owe a great deal personally to friends who have offered me hospital­ ity, diversion, and warm companionship on many, many occasions— Ethan Berry, Ted Byers, Austin and Christina Campriello, Betsy Eaton, Pete Eaton, Mike Fosburg, Robert and Jormda Gershon, Pat Skibbee, Peter and Lisa Smith, and Judy Taylor. Doug and Terry Kuhlmann and Vic Hennigsen deserve special mention for bailing me out in a number of last-minute emergencies. At Phillips Academy, Thomas T. Lyons helped create a congenial work environment by arranging for my wife and me to share one job, and many administrators in the ten years since have con­ tinued to treat our changing needs supportively. Cathy Royal and K. Kelly Wise were especially kind in adjusting pieces of my workload at key moments.

XII

PREFACE

I am indebted as well to a number of scholars whose aid has made this a better book than it would otherwise have been. Michael Kimmel and Joseph Pleck have been energetic in keeping me connected to interdisciplinary scholarship on men. Peter Filene, Linda Kerber, Jan Lewis, Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Steven Stowe, Lisa Wilson, and Michael Zuckerman have all made useful responses to pieces of this book. Nancy Cott and Philip Greven, Jr., read the whole book in its earlier life as a dissertation, and their comments helped to shape its final form. Ellen Rothman was a great research companion, a discerning critic, and a major influence on the book in its early stages. Steve Fraser, my editor at Basic Books, has been perceptive, patient, and persistent in just the right ways. David Hackett Fischer's infectious enthusiasm made him an in­ spiring teacher, and his bold and convincing vision of American history lies at the foundation of this book. Above all, I am grateful to my mentor, John Demos. The way I think as a historian is as close to John's way as I can make it. He has been a wise teacher, a sage counselor, and a pene­ trating critic. Even better, he has been a warm and loyal friend. Finally, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my family. Ruth Ann W hit­ ney, Peggy Rotundo, Danny Danforth, Rose Rotundo, Ralph and Jane Bristol, Bill and Faye Dalton, and Newell and Dalli Bacon have given me shelter, support, financial help, and lots of love. My mother, Barbara Rotundo, contributed her editing and child-care skills and a quiet place to work, but more than that she taught me to care about people and about the past. My father, Joseph Rotundo, died before I grew to man­ hood, but his impact on me as a boy and the example he left for me as a man are as fine a legacy as a father could leave to a son. I thank my daughter, Barbara, and my son, Peter, for all their love, their eagerness to help, and their many delightful distractions. Above all, I am grateful to my wife, Kathleen Dalton. While it has often helped me to be mar­ ried to a biographer of Theodore Roosevelt, it has been even more im­ portant that Kathy has been my yokemate, my computer maven, my in­ tellectual partner, and, most of all, my beloved best fnend. I could not have written this book without her.

AMERICAN MANHOOD

Introduction

T O W A R D A H I S T O R Y OF A M E R IC A N M A N H O O D

IN our time, many people are searching for the true essence of man­ hood. Who is a “real man”? What is “naturally” male? How does a “manly man” act? We sift the evidence of human behavior, from modern customs to ancient tales, hoping for clues to the fundamental nature of manhood. The response of this book to the quest for true manhood is that man­ liness is a human invention. Starting with a handful of biological differ­ ences, people m all places and times have invented elaborate stories about what it means to be male and female. In other words, each culture constructs its own version of what men and women are—and ought to be.1 Scholars talk about this process by distinguishing between sex and gender. In their language, sex refers to the division of animal forms into male and female according to basic differences of anatomy. Gender refers to the meanings that people attach to a persons sex. In other words, sex is a m atter of biology and gender is a m atter of culture. This book is about gender and the cultural invention called manhood.2. Like any human creation, manhood can be shaped and reshaped by the human imagination; that is, manhood has a history.3 The pages that follow describe an important piece of that history. Specifically, they tell the story of a transformation in the meaning of manhood for Americans. This is a story with special resonance for us in an era with an organized mens movement. Thousands of men are engaging today m the rituals

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and encounters of that movement, while countless other men (and women) have read the key texts of that movement, such as Robert Bly’s Iron John and Sam Keens Fire in the Betty. Like the concept of man­ hood itself, this search to recover a lost essence of manliness has a histoiy. Exactly a century ago, thousands of American men were questing to reconnect with primitive roots of their maleness through ritual and writing. To understand that quest—and the current one—we need to understand the larger flow of the histoiy of manhood.4 The vehicle for this larger story is the expenence of the Northern middle class, a small proportion of the American population who used their vast economic and cultural power to imprint their values on the na­ tion. As this class developed and extended its influence, its own ideas of male and female changed dramatically. These notions of manhood have gone through three different phases, each of which included its own im­ ages and expectations of men. The first of these phases, communal manhood, developed in the densely woven social world of colonial New England.3 There, a man’s identity was inseparable from the duties he owed to his community. He fulfilled himself through public usefulness more than his economic suc­ cess, and the social status of the family into which he was bom gave him his place in the community more than his individual achievements did. Through his role as the head of the household, a man expressed his value to his community and provided his wife and children with their so­ cial identity. William Bentley, a minister m Salem, Massachusetts, described men of this communal world in his diary. His descriptions of daily life show how manhood was closely entwined with the needs and expectations of a man’s neighbors. One of Bentley’s countless anecdotes tells of Retire Becket, a man who had followed many generations of Beckets into the shipbuilding trade. Though Becket had the reputation of “an honest dealer,” he was forced to declare himself bankrupt. Bentley describes the results: “His debts are numerous, and they tend to hurt many honest men. To his forest men, to his carpenters, to his employers, to his me­ chanics he is everywhere in debt.” In this world where creditors were neighbors and kinsmen were clients, a man’s failure at work was never a private concern. It sent ripples through the entire community, injuring neighbors and directing embarrassment and shame back at the man who failed. In the same vein, a man’s failures in his family were a m atter of deep concern to those beyond his household. William Bentley relates the painful experience of a Salem merchant named Goodale who could not

Introduction: Toward a History of American Manhood

3

control his son. According to Bentley, Goodale was “a Gentleman of lib­ eral education, and pleasing manners,” but he “led his oldest son to an indolent and vitious life” by “gratifying foolish extravagancies.” The young mans high living put a strain on his fathers health and finances. More than that, the son’s conduct was “the occasion o f . . most severe public censures” against his father. Young Goodale became such a per­ sonal worry and a public shame that the elder merchant had to send him away to the Carolinas. The shortcomings of a youth were charged di­ rectly to the father who brought him forth into the community. The line between public and private barely existed in eighteenth-century towns and villages, and that social fact had a profound influence on the way people conceived of manhood.6 People understood manhood not only in terms of its social setting but also in terms of its contrast with womanhood. The fundamental belief about men and women before 1800 was that men were superior. In par­ ticular, men were seen as the more virtuous sex. They were credited with greater reason, which enabled them to moderate passions like am­ bition, defiance, and envy more effectively than women could. This be­ lief m male superiority provided the foundation for other forms of in­ equality before the law and in the household. This communal form of manhood lingered on through the first decades of the nineteenth century, but it was eclipsed by a self-made manhood which had begun to grow in the late eighteenth century. The new manhood emerged as part of a broader series of changes: the birth of republican government, the spread of a market economy, the con­ comitant growth of the middle class itself. At the root of these changes was an economic and a political life based on the free play of individual interests. In this new world, a man took his identity and his social status from his own achievements, not from the accident of his birth. Thus, a man s work role, not his place at the head of the household, formed the essence of his identity. And men fulfilled themselves through personal success in business and the professions, while the notion of public ser­ vice declined. “Male” passions were now given freer rein. Ambition, rivalry, and ag­ gression drove the new system of individual interests, and a man defined his manhood not by his ability to moderate the passions but by his ability to channel them effectively. Reason, still viewed as a male trait, played a vital role in the process of governing passion, but important new virtues were attributed to men. In the new era of individualism, the old male passion of defiance was transformed into the modern virtue of indepen­ dence. Now, a man was expected to be jealous of his autonomy and free

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from reliance on external authority. In this world where a man was sup­ posed to prove his superiority, the urge for dominance was seen as a virtue. These male passions provided the driving force m the lives of nine­ teenth-century men like Henry Vamum Poor. Poor was bom in 1812 m the frontier town of Andover, Maine, and he grew up to be a leading business writer and railroad expert. His success came from his ferocious energy and his mighty determination as much as it came from his tal­ ents. He compared himself in strength and will to an elephant, an ox, or a lion. Poor boasted that he was constantly “on the go,” and his wife mar­ veled at his tendency to “shoot around like a rocket.” As Poor put it, “there is nothing like work to . . . give [a man] self-respect.” Poor’s work gave him an outlet for his manly passions at the same time that it built his self-regard as a man. Moreover, his career offered a way to use those aggressive passions to mold his own social identity. Poor was bom into the elite of a backwoods village; his vigorous efforts placed him among the elite of the nation.7 As the selfish passions of men like Poor were sanctioned and set loose m the nineteenth century, people began to fear that civilization would be replaced by chaos. They worried that the pursuit of self-mterest would tear apart the social fabric. Some people believed that men, through rit­ uals of reason and debate, could civilize themselves. But others feared that, with the male tradition of public usefulness fading, men would no longer protect the bonds of society. Thus it was that women became guardians of civilization and the common good in the new order of indi­ vidualism. Woman’s nature was sharply redefined; she was now viewed as the source of virtue. Since woman’s moral sense was considered stronger than man’s, females took on the tasks of controlling male pas­ sion and educating men in the arts of self-denial. Given their “inherent” virtue, women were not seen as inferior to men so much as different from them. In this era of individual choice, personal preference gov­ erned the marriage decision. The marital bond was now a union of love, based on the attraction of opposites. In hard, worldly terms, however, women still took their social identities from those of their husbands, even thougjh they were expected to help shape male character. Women could not participate in all the privileges of individualism, as men did. Henry Poor summarized a common belief about the sexes when he said that “the chief end of women is to make others happy.” His wife, Maiy, shared m that belief. She devoted her life to the care of her hus­ band and six children. Although Mary was a friend of the pioneering woman physician Elizabeth Blackwell, she wrote that she “would rather

Introduction: Toward a History of American Manhood

5

my daughters would love and marry . . . than to turn out quite so strong minded [as Blackwell].” In her pursuit of the conventional woman’s role, Mary Poor sought not only to make others happy but also to make them good. As the chief companion and regular disciplinarian of her children, she taught her children to focus on constructive activity and steer their energies away from vice and folly.8 The successes (and failures) of her efforts are evident m the life of her son. Will. In his early teens, Will wrote an essay on his philosophy of life that combined his mother’s virtuous self-restraint with his father’s strenuous determination. “The successful ones,” he noted, “are those who lay before themselves a life of work, self-denial, and usefulness.” A man who wished to succeed, said Will, must “devote all his time to the completion o f . . . one tiling,” and, most of all, he must never let himself “be discouraged by any adverse circumstances.” Will put his creed into action when he grew up. In business and as an investor, he became a wealthy man, the fnend of presidents and tycoons. And when a financial panic late m his life forced him to sell much of what he owned, Will plunged back into business with the same vigorous intensity that had marked his youthful rise to success.9 Yet there were other themes in Will Poor’s life that separated his val­ ues from those of his parents—and that pointed to new definitions of manhood. Will lived out the code of civilized self-denial in a fashion dif­ ferent from that of the men of his parents’ generation. As hard as he worked, he also allowed himself a range of enjoyments that made him look self-indulgent in comparison to his parents. He had an active social life, and set aside more time than his father had for play with his chil­ dren. He took pains to keep his body fit and strong, and he loved to hunt. Will was also an avid consumer, and his extensive book collection even contained a number of erotic titles. When Will Poor spoke of selfdenial, he clearly did not have his parents’ ascetic code in mind. And yet, faced with financial disaster, he did not hesitate to sell most of what he owned and devote himself to business with single-minded vigor. Will Poor was, m fact, a transitional figure. Raised on the assumptions of selfmade manhood, which his father had embodied, he also participated in a newer form of manhood that was more indulgent of passion.10 Ansing in the late nineteenth century, this new passionate manhood was m some respects an elaboration of existing beliefs about self-made manhood, but it stretched those beliefs in directions that would have shocked the old individualists of the early 1800s. The most dramatic change was in the positive value put on male passions. In the closing years of the century, ambition and combativeness became virtues for

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men; competitiveness and aggression were exalted as ends in them ­ selves. Toughness was now admired, while tenderness was a cause for scorn. Even sexual desire, an especially worrisome male passion in the nineteenth centuiy, slowly gathered legitimacy. Indeed, the body itself became a vital component of manhood: strength, appearance, and ath­ letic skill m attered more than in previous centuries. A new emphasis on the self was essential to these changes. In middleclass culture, “the self’ came to mean that unique core of personal iden­ tity that lay beneath all the layers of social convention. A person’s pas­ sions were vital components of the self. W here nineteenth-century views had regarded the self and its passions suspiciously as objects of manipu­ lation (self-control, self-denial), twentieth-centuiy opinion exalted them as the source of identity and personal worth (self-expression, self­ enjoyment). Play and leisured entertainm ent—once considered marks of effeminacy—became approved activities for men as the nineteenth century ended, and consumer choice became a form of male selfexpression. A man defined his identity not just in the workplace but through modes of enjoyment and self-fulfillment outside of it. In a world where the passions formed a vital part of the self, older forms of virtue— self-restraint, self-denial—became suspect. The contrast between men and women—sharp in the 1800s—blurred from “opposite” to merely “different,” and the goal of marriage began to change from a union of opposites to a union of unique selves. With the passing of the twentieth centuiy, even the sense of difference between the sexes has been replaced in some circles by a new emphasis on their underlying similarity. Under these circumstances, the subordination of a woman’s identity to that of her husband has grown more difficult to justify. In our own era, the prevailing forms of manhood have begun to face hard critical scrutiny. Different critics have aimed at different problems. Some charge that modem concepts of manhood have alienated men from each other, while others emphasize the alienation of men from women. Certain critics focus on the damage done to men who have lost touch with their own senses of tenderness and care, and other detractors stress the damage done to women by the unfair distribution of power between the sexes. Still others have identified ways in which concepts of manhood have swayed public policy and political choice in the twentieth centuiy.11 This book will evaluate these charges in the context of history, while also identifying positive effects of the same concepts. Our beliefs about manhood have played a powerful role in determin­ ing the kind of Ufe and the kind of society we have. These notions of

Introduction: Toward a History of American Manhood

7

manliness have left their imprint, for instance, on political language, with its profusion of sports metaphors and its preoccupation with tough­ ness. They have framed our definition of the male homosexual as a man bereft of manhood. And they have nurtured our cultural romance with competition as a solution to all problems, from economic productivity to a fair divorce settlement. How our concepts of manhood have devel­ oped—and affected the world we have inherited—are the chief con­ cerns of this book.

Manhood is not a social edict determined on high and enforced by law. As a human invention, manhood is learned, used, reinforced, and re­ shaped by individuals in the course of life. In order to understand the transformation of middle-class manhood, we need to explore this per­ sonal process as it operated in the crucial century of change—the nine­ teenth. In the early 1800s, self-made manhood became the dominant cultural form, and it was later in the same century that passionate man­ hood evolved. By studying the lifelong process by which men learned and reshaped manhood during that era, we can know more intimately the way m which a great cultural transformation took place, and we can better understand the people who built the forms of manhood we have inherited. Middle-class men who lived in the nineteenth century experienced a life that, though resembling our own in some ways, was utterly separate in others. As small boys, they were dressed in the clothing and hairstyles of girls. In youth, they struggled along a path to manhood that was less clearly marked than today. There was little system to the passage of a boy through his years of education, and there was even less system in the process that gave him credentials for a life in commerce or the profes­ sions. Being engaged to m any was a status that often lasted two years and sometimes stretched to eight. In that era, the conceptual distinction between boyhood and manhood was much sharper than it is now; the man was expected to be a distinguished figure—sober and purposeful— while the boy possessed a sense of play that was utterly unacceptable m a man. The pattern of men’s personal relationships was different as well. In young manhood, romantic—even passionate—friendships between males were socially accepted. Throughout manhood, men’s physical and cultural world was separated from women’s much more than it is today. Middle-class men of the 1800s also experienced certain kinds of gen­ der conflict in their own feelings. These conflicts were a response to the fact that middle-class culture seemed to place gender labels everywhere.

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A man s aggressions were male; his conscience, female; his desire to con­ quer, male; his urge to nurture, female; his need for work and worldly achievement, male; his wish to stay home and enjoy quiet leisure, fe­ male. More than that, a man learned his lessons about gender from both men and women, and the lessons he learned were not the same. For in­ stance, individualism might look like selfishness to his mother, while it showed assertive, manly autonomy to male peers. Men often found their own emotions clashing. In Ivanhoe, a favorite novel of American men in this era, one of the heroes died in battle not from “the lance of his enemy” but as “a victim of his own contending passions.” The notion of contending passions resonated deeply with Ivanhoe’s legion of male readers.12 Contending passions had another meaning as well for these men. In this era, men were subject to new expectations about the way they man­ aged feelings of rivalry. These competitive impulses, which had been tar­ gets of condemnation in early America, gained a measure of respect in the nineteenth centuiy. Still, they remained a preoccupation for men and for middle-class culture in general. The history of this preoccupa­ tion is an important part of the story of Northern manhood m the 1800s. As we observe how men learned manhood, reshaped it, and coped with its inner conflicts, we will follow their public lives as well. Nine­ teenth-century men and their concepts of manhood helped to define the character of many important American institutions. Modem legal educa­ tion, for instance, is based on the nineteenth-century model of the case method, in which students engage in “Socratic” classroom struggles over specific cases with their professors. As one of its early practitioners noted, the case method replaced an older method, based on lectures, which had not been “a virile system.” Many of the customs and folkways of the United States Congress have their origins m the early nineteenth Century, when not only the federal government but the capital city itself were virtually all-male settings; continued years of male dominance in Congress have only elaborated the masculine culture established m the early 1800s. The modem forms of the medical profession were also established in the nineteenth century. As the scientific physician became the dominant model and women were swept to the margins of the profession at the end of the 1800s, a network of medical schools, hospitals, and medical associations emerged to dominate the health-care field. With this new set of institutions and ideals came a growing emphasis on “male” reason and authority in the practice of medicine and a shrinking focus on “fe­ male” nurture. Clearly, men of the last century incorporated their own

Introduction: Toward a History of American Manhood

9

customs and beliefs into the institutions they built. Since we still inhabit these professional and public institutions, nineteenth-centuiy manhood of the Northern middle-class variety is still impinging on us daily.13 This is an important historical moment m which to emphasize such findings. In the current political climate, gender is often dismissed as a tool of understanding. The study of gender has been derided as a woman’s obsession, an intellectual plaything of feminists that would drop from consideration if not for their political pressure. I hope that this book will help to correct this dismissive attitude. So many of our institu­ tions have m ens needs and values built into their foundations, so many of our habits of thought were formed by male views at specific points in historical time, that we must understand gender in its historical dimen­ sion to understand our ideas and institutions.

Since men have held the great predominance of power over the last two centuries, one inevitably studies male domination in studying recent gender history. And since humans tend not to behave at their best when left with a predominance of power, the picture of middle-class men in relation to women over the last two centuries is bound to have its unat­ tractive side. Men have often acted thoughtlessly, sometimes viciously, and nearly always for their own advantage, in dealing with women as a sex. Thus, it is easy to study issues of sex and gender and portray men as faceless oppressors. Such a simple portrait, however, would not help us to understand how gender operates as a cultural and political force. Besides, such a picture does not do justice to the varieties of male behavior or the complexities of inner motive. Few men would recognize themselves in such a generic portrait. In this book, I have tried to describe the rich mixture of feeling, intention, and conduct that flows through social customs and political structures to emerge as individual behavior. The forms of power and be­ lief in times past will m atter in the pages that follow, and so will the di­ versity of male expenence.

Chapter I

C O M M U N IT Y TO IN D IV ID U A L The Transformation of Manhood at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

A

# YNYONE who tries to learn about manhood before 1800 encoun­ ters a world of meaning far different from that of the twentieth centuiy. Early New Englanders rarely used words like manhood and masculinity. In fact, the significance of gender was not a topic of constant discussion, as it would be in later years. Still, the lack of an obsession with gender before 1800 did not mean an absence of ideas on the subject. People recorded their ideas of what it meant to be a good man, and they were influenced by their own religious texts and by new ideas pounng in from abroad. In their laws and m the enforcement of discipline, they revealed many assumptions about the meaning of manhood. Distinctions be­ tween men and women helped to order society m colonial New Eng­ land, and played a notable part in the systems of belief that flourished before 1800.

Communal Manhood If there was one position in society that expressed the essence of man­ hood for early New Englanders, it was man’s role as head of the house­ hold. Every person—young or old, male or female—had to find a place within a family, but the family head could only be a male. In time, most men could head a household, and colonial New Englanders learned to associate males with authority through their constant contact with men

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in that role. The two other institutions at the heart of the society— church and state—were also governed solely by men, but those figures of authority might be distant. It was the man at the head of the family who embodied Gods authority in the daily life of each person.1 Why did men hold this position? Why, in other words, was authority male and not female? The Puritans who shaped New England’s institu­ tions and customs built their society on their religious beliefs. Their God was a man, and, when He created humankind. He made a man first and then made woman as a helpmeet. Puritans read in their scriptures that God said to Eve, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”2 And they knew as well that woman, not man, had started the fall from grace. Thus, the Puritans, who believed that God arranged all living things in rank order, placed man above woman and second only to God.3 When the men of early New England explained their superiority in earthly terms, they spoke of their greater strength of body and mind. In a world where all but a few people lived by the work of their hands, mens physical strength seemed to qualify them better than women to support the household. And since men were also credited with greater strength of mind, they seemed more fit than women to make wise deci­ sions in governing a family.4 Eighteenth-century New Englanders elaborated these distinctions between the sexes. They divided human passions into those that were typically male and those that were quintessentially female. Ambition, as­ sertiveness, and a lust for power and fame were thought to be "manly” passions. A taste for luxuiy, submissiveness, and a love of idle pleasures were considered "effeminate” passions. But whether a man was strug­ gling with manly or effeminate passions, he was assumed to have greater reason than woman—and it was reason that helped a person to govern the passions. To New Englanders of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, men’s powers of mind suited them better than women to head a household.5 Because most males eventually occupied this role and few females ever could, governing a family meant participation in a division of power by gender. To head a household, for all intents and purposes, was to be a man. To understand why this social trust—this male prerogative—was so important, one must understand the nature of the family in New Eng­ land before 1800. The family, to start with, was the primary unit of pro­ duction. Farms, shops, and great mercantile firms were all family enter­ prises. The family also served as the fundamental unit of society. Early Americans—and men in particular—reckoned their status in great mea-

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sure by the family in which they were bom. Even as a man’s family helped to locate him within the ordered ranks of society, it placed him in historical time as well, for his family linked him to generations of ances­ tors and descendants.6 In the view of the community the head of the household was the em­ bodiment of all its members. The basic unit of the political system was the family, and the head of the family was its link to community gover­ nance. He was the household’s voting representative in public councils, and public officers held him responsible for the behavior and welfare of those in his care. In addition, the family was viewed as “a little common­ wealth,” which meant not only that it was the government writ small but that the government was the family writ large. The head of the house­ hold set the standard of firmness and vigilant concern by which public rulers were measured.7 He was also responsible for the godliness of his family, leading them in daily worship. To head a household, in sum, was to anchor the status system, preserve the political order, provide a model of government, sustain piety ensure productive activity and maintain the economic support of one’s dependents. Even with so much authority vested in one person, the household was not governed by tyranny. It was a patriarchy, the rule of a family by a fa­ ther figure. Ideally, a father loved each member of his household, but even where such love did not exist, the head of the Puritan household was constrained in his actions by the duties he owed to each person in his charge. In particular, a man’s wife—though not his equal—was his partner, and some of his power was readily delegated to her. But to all members—sons and daughters, servants, boarders, and aged kin—the head of the family owed benevolent rule, and he could expect to answer to his community if he failed badly in this or any other duty.8 Indeed, duty was a crucial word for manhood, as it was for New Eng­ land society itself. Eveiy social relationship was organized as a conjunc­ tion of roles (father-son, husband-wife, neighbor-neighbor, for example), and each role was governed by a set of duties owed to others. The im­ portance of these obligations showed through in eveiyday language. Even grown men signed letters to their parents, ‘Tour dutiful son,” and people wrote constantly of their “Duty, to God and Man.”9 Sociologists tell us that any society is organized by roles, but some so­ cieties balance the importance of social roles by paying great attention to the distinctive qualities of each individual in ordering human relation­ ships. Colonial New England was not such a place. There, people thought of their world as “an organic social order in which rights and re-

Community to Individual

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sponsibilities were reciprocal and in which terms like individuality or self-reliance had little place.”10 A persons identity was bound up in the performance of social roles, not in the expression of self. Every colonial New Englander, regardless of sex, put a high premium on the fulfillment of duty; but in a place and time where men wielded the social authority, they especially were judged by their contribution to the larger community. Before 1800, New Englanders saw a close link be­ tween manhood and “social usefulness.” A mother could boast that her little son s growing integrity and honor were “good foundations upon which one may reasonably build hopes of future usefulness.” Likewise, a study of heroes in magazine articles of the late eighteenth century has shown that a mans “publick usefulness” was a crucial measure of his worth. Men who carried out their duties to family and community were men to admire.11 The performance of social obligation often required a man to act against his own will. To carry out such obligations, a man had to learn submission to superiors, to fate, to duty itself. The Christian faith of New Englanders was a stem , effective teacher of submission. It enabled acquiescence in the will of God and resignation to the “pleasure of the Sovereign of the Universe.”12 Submission was more than a Christian virtue, though. It was also a habit of thought well suited to life in a soci­ ety of rank order. So young people deferred to old, sons yielded to fa­ thers, women submitted to men, and men of all ages acquiesced in their social responsibilities. Moreover, society was arranged by class as well as age and gender. People of the upper orders expected their inferiors to defer to them, so a man bowed to his superiors just as he submitted to Gods will.13 But no man, however well placed, could deal cruelly with his inferi­ ors. Every man was expected to treat dependents with kindness and re­ straint. Life in a New England community involved delicate balances, maintained at an intimate distance. People placed a high value on per­ sonal qualities that kept social relations smooth. A man was admired if he was gentle and amiable. This quality demanded self-restraint and placed a tremendous emotional burden on the details of social behavior, but the effort was considered worthy. If a man could cultivate a high re­ gard among his fellows while minimizing conflict, he became a valuable asset in a close-knit society.14 The ideal man, then, was pleasant, mild-mannered, and devoted to the good of the community. He performed his duties faithfully, governed his passions rationally, submitted to his fate and to his place in society.

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and treated his dependents with firm but affectionate wisdom. Pious, dutiful, restrained—such a man seems almost too good to survive on this earth. In fact, it is not clear that the men who conjured up his image ex­ pected him to exist in pure form. He was, after all, a composite of ideal traits, a collection of virtues that men yearned to bring to life. And, when one reads the descriptions of his character, one senses the lurking fear of a wholly different set of male traits. When the minister William Bentley sketched his vision of “the good man,” he filled it with statements about what this paragon did not do; he was “without dissimulation,” “pure from guile,” “easily dissuaded from revenge.” A physician named Alexander Anderson, reading a biography of Gustavus Vase, explained his deep re­ spect for the man in this way: "I admire his resignation-—a very useful virtue—I speak from the want of it myself.”15 Behind the admiration for the virtuous, socially useful man, then, lay the fear of a different kind of person—a man who was contentious and willful, who stood up and fought for his own interests. This defiant be­ havior frightened men who wanted to believe in a corporate ideal. They were alarmed when selfish impulses were set loose around them, and they were even more alarmed to know that those same impulses were at work inside themselves.

From the earliest days of Puritan settlement, self-assertion played a cru­ cial part in the daily life of New England. The veiy duties that de­ manded submission to some people and some social expectations re­ quired action against others. W hether the head of a household was lay­ ing claim to a scarce resource on behalf of his family or chastising a child for idleness, self-assertion was needed for the performance of a man’s social duties. Moreover, a new society on a different continent presented men widi endless opportunities for personal gain. The man who was willing to vent his "manly passions”—ambition, avarice, assertiveness— had the best chance of exploiting those opportunities. Some historians have described the operation of individual initiative from the moment of Puritan settlement. There were many acceptable outlets for this sort of initiative in the seventeenth century. The constant creation of new towns on the New England frontier—while in part a response to overcrowding in older settlements—could also represent an assertion of economic am­ bition or even a set of ideas at odds with the orthodoxies of earlier com­ munities. Meanwhile, personal wealth was admitted, along with age, sex, and birth, as a determ inant of social rank in the Puritan colonies. The

Community to Individual

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development of a small but visible merchant class in coastal towns also testified to a certain tolerance for individual ambition. And the near­ constant state of warfare with the native peoples of the region enabled men to express their manly passions to the fullest—and often bloodi­ est—extent with the enthusiastic support of their society.16 It is worth noting that this tolerance of certain forms of self-assertion was extended to men more than to women. To be sure, women per­ formed certain male duties as needed, they carried on their own infor­ mal networks of trade, and they were honored for moments of bravery in frontier warfare.17 But these exceptions to the rule were far more limited in scope than those allowed to men. And the most dramatic acts of sup­ pression in Puritan New England (the prosecutions of Anne Hutchinson and of numerous "witches”) were directed against assertive women, not assertive men. In theory, any acts of individual ambition threatened so­ cial unity. In practice, a woman who refused to be submissive challenged a patriarchal society more profoundly than did a defiant man. For men, the flexibility of the social code created an area of compro­ mise between communal ideal and individual desire. Much economic ambition could be rationalized as a man s way of adding to the common wealth, and political self-advancement could always be explained as a desire to serve the community in some greater cause. Most historians of early New England agree that assertive individual­ ism was contained without being suppressed until the early 1700s. Throughout the eighteenth centuiy, however, the manly passions were an increasingly divisive social force. In 1704, a Massachusetts minister named John Danforth denounced "The Vile Profanations of Prosperity,” announcing with dread that “This Sheba, SELF, has blown the Trumpet of Rebellion.” The rebellious claims of the self were most evident in sea­ ports where merchant families lived in growing luxury and where arti­ sans found the best opportunities for self-advancement. Meanwhile, the steady westward migration created many new towns in each generation and slowly weakened communal values. At the same time, new modes of thought supported individual action. In the second quarter of the eigh­ teenth century, the Great Awakening advanced the idea of personal in­ dependence and undermined hierarchy as a social principle. By midcen­ tury, a new stream of ideas was flowing from England to North America. Critical of a static social order and patriarchal authority, these revolu­ tionary ideas gained adherents quickly.18 By the 1770s, then, Americans had learned to feel more comfortable with the notion of self-assertion. By throwing off their belief in the virtue of submission, they prepared themselves for revolution. In turn.

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the uprising against British authority raised the idea of the independent self to a new level of reverence. The war for independence—and the change in attitudes toward individual initiative that came with it—were often framed in the language of manliness. The Declaration of Indepen­ dence itself used the word manly to mean resolute courage m resisting tyranny: “[The King] has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the peo­ ple.” And when Royall Tyler wrote the first successful American comedy, The Contrast, in 1787, he created a character to embody American virtues and named him Colonel Manly. What were these Manly Ameri­ can virtues? The Colonel was brave, frank, independent in thought and feeling, and free from submission and luxury. The use of the language of manhood to suggest virtue continued throughout the period. Benjamin Goodhue, a staunch opponent of the French Revolution, wrote of rela­ tions with that country in 1798: “We shall be compelled shortly to either manfully oppose the injuries We endure . . . , or submissively submit to the degrading terms those haughty Despots choose to impose.”19 During the revolutionary cnsis and the early decades of the new re­ public, the language of manliness was used more and more for positive social purposes. To some extent, this positive new usage represented an addition to old concepts of manhood. Benjamin Goodhue’s pointed con­ trast of manfully with submissively indicates the changed meaning of manliness. A man was one who resisted arbitrary authority, who refused submission. This new addition to the old definition of manhood had sub­ versive implications, for a social order based on rank could only exist where men were encouraged to submit. In the late eighteenth century, as men were using manliness with new meanings, they were also creating a new society based on the free ex­ pression of the traditional manly passions—assertiveness, ambition, avarice, lust for power. These male drives would provide the motive force for political and economic systems of a novel sort. The new federal constitution, instead of suppressing self-interest, assumed its existence and built a system of government on the play of competing interests. Unfettered individualism was not yet honored in public discourse, but the individual citizen—with all his rights and interests—was now die source of power in the American republic. Likewise, a more dynamic form of commercial life was in the making. National leaders like Alexan­ der Hamilton saw compelling reasons to turn loose the forces of individ­ ual enterprise. And the modern systems of banking and finance, which are fueled by personal profit and individual interest, have their roots m this era.20

Community to Individual

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The late eighteenth century, then, was a time of nascent individual­ ism. The forces of community and tradition faltered in their struggle to contain personal ambition, and the claims of the individual self appeared in all realms of a mans life with growing legitimacy.

Since the settlement of New England, the aggressive passions that threatened social order had been associated with manhood and with selfish interest. When John Danforth had railed against “this Sheba, SELF,” he was lamenting the presence of “manly” vices such as greed and assertiveness. Throughout the eighteenth century, the connection between male passion and individual interest had persisted. Thus, when influential thinkers o f the late eighteenth century pondered the growing claims of the self, they thought only of the male self. From the start, in­ dividualism was a gendered issue.21 To gain full consideration as individuals, women had to follow a path very different from that of men. The first positive recognition of the fe­ male self—^unique, separate from others, and transcendently impor­ tant—came not in the public realm, but through romance. Though ro­ mantic love was not enshrined as a cultural ideal until the nineteenth century, it grew steadily in importance during the second half of the eighteenth. At that time, romantic love disentangled itself from family considerations in choosing a spouse. A couple, when “struck with love,” experienced a reaction between unique selves. Romance was a pro­ foundly individual experience. Although American men and women had certainly fallen in love before the late eighteenth centuiy, their experi­ ence had not as a rule been glorified. As romantic love moved to a cul­ tural position of honor and fascination, it brought the distinctive traits of the individual woman (and the individual man) into a favorable light.22 While romance exalted the unique female self in the private realm, the recognition of woman as an individual in the public arena never hap­ pened m the eighteenth century. In this dimension, individualism touched men and women differently. As American men erected a new political system in which power flowed upward from the individual man, however, womens attempts to create some legitimate political role for themselves helped to lay the basis for the new gender arrangements that would flourish in the nineteenth century.23 Women of the new republic, like the females of the colonies, could not vote or hold public office.24 In constructing a place for themselves in politics, women turned to two common articles of social faith: that a woman s proper place was in the home; and that a republic could only

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last if its citizens—that is, its male participants—had a strong sense of public virtue. Men would have to learn this virtue somewhere, and where better than the home? Republican mothers would instill incor­ ruptible honesty and a love of liberty in their boys.25 By creating this new role for themselves, women were filling a gap created by the nascent individualism of men. In the past, men had held the moral responsibility for the good of the community. Under the new constitution, political self-interest was assumed, and men began to cre­ ate “an aggressive, egalitarian democracy of a modem sort.”26 With male self-assertion emerging as legitimate political behavior, women took men’s place as the custodians of communal virtue. This new role did not place male and female on equal footing; in fact, women were providing a service to men and society. By preserving the sense of common social virtue, women were freeing men to pursue selfinterest. As historian Linda Kerber has written, “The learned woman, who might very well wish to make choices as well as to influence atti­ tudes, was a visible threat to this arrangement.”27 Viewed in one way, women’s new political mission simply re-created the supportive, subordinate role women had always played in the colonies: the new, moral womanhood made the new, individualistic man­ hood possible. On the other hand, republican motherhood laid the foun­ dation for a different and more effectual women’s role in the nineteenth centuiy. It gave women a clearly defined political function, something they had never had before. Republican motherhood, moreover, elevated the status of domesticity by giving it relevance and importance in rela­ tion to the public domain. And woman’s new function as the custodian of virtue exalted her to a higher moral plane. No longer viewed primarily as the sinful daughter of Eve, she was now thought to exert an uplifting moral influence on men.28 These changes laid the basis for a new relationship between the sexes in the nineteenth centuiy. Though still subordinate to men, women were increasingly seen as separate, too. Their high moral status made the do­ mestic world a base of influence as well as a confinement. As the age of individualism began, the redefinitions of manhood and womanhood were part of the same process.

Self-made Manhood In 1802, an ambitious young man named Daniel Webster was setting out in the world to seek his fortune. Like so many other men of his era,

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Webster saw before him a wide-open, changing society that was full of risk and possibility. In a metaphor of movement, he described what he saw: The world is nothing but a contra-dance, and eveiyone volens, nolens, has a part in it. Some are sinking, others rising, others balancing, some gradually ascending towards the top, others flamingly leading down. Some cast off from Fame and Fortune, and some again in a comfortable allemande with both.29 Webster joined eagerly in this dance of social fortunes. Nor was he alone. At the dawn of the nineteenth centuiy, young men of the North faced a world of immense opportunity. The settlem ent of vast new areas inspired visions of great wealth. The Revolution had in­ troduced a more dynamic view of the social order, and the new Ameri­ can governments had removed some of the old legal barriers to social advancement. Most of all, the spread of the market economy created new opportunities.30 As obstacles fell and opportunities grew, the reassessment of selfinterest and individual initiative, which had begun in the late eighteenth century, gained momentum and spawned new ideas. One of these ideas gripped the popular imagination with special force in the early nine­ teenth century: the notion that free competition would reward the best man. People believed that a man could now advance as far as his own work and talents would take him. This belief in a free and open contest for success shared a common assumption with another new attitude that emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century: that the individual, not the community, was the fundamental unit of society. This shift in thinking from community to person had profound impli­ cations for notions of manhood. Men rejected the idea that they had a fixed place in any hierarchy, be it cosmic or social. They no longer thought of themselves as part of an organic community from which they drew personal identity. And they ceased to see themselves as segments in an unbroken family line. The metaphors by which men had defined themselves were losing their power in the new century. In their stead, a new image developed. Society was a collection of atoms—unranked humans without assigned positions of any sort—and each found his proper place in the world through his own efforts. This new man—this atom—was free of the cord of generations that had given his forefathers a place in historical time. The past did not weigh him down in his struggle to make himself whatever he dreamed of being.

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The individual was now die measure of things and men were engrossed with themselves as selves. The dominant concerns were the concerns of the self—self-improvement, self-control, self-interest, self-advancement. Passions like personal ambition and aggression—though not seen as virtues—were allowed free passage in society. And the important bonds between people were now fastened by individual preference more than birth or social duty.31 With assertiveness, greedr and rivalry set free in the marketplace and in the public councils, old dilemmas arose in new forms. The Puritans had viewed those passions as a threat to social order and had tried to control them through a code of communal beliefs and rules. That older system could not work in a society based on the individual. How, dien, could the new order be saved from destruction by the very engines of male passion that drove it? How could the individual man be civilized?32 O f course, manhood was more than an abstract idea. It was also a standard of behavior for individual men. In this era of competition and self-advancement, men had to vent their aggressive, “manly” passions, but they needed to learn how to do it without being socially destructive. Two different strategies emerged to prevent liberated self-interest from laying waste to the social order. These tactical methods contradicted each other, and the conflict between them did much to define bourgeois manhood in the nineteenth century.

To understand the two main strategies that men used to control their ag­ gressions, it helps to look at the ways of defining manhood by naming its opposite. If a man is not a man, then what is he? One answer is obvious in the context of this book about gender: If a man is not a man, he must be like a woman. But nineteenth-centuiy men had a second answer: If a man is not a man, he must be like a boy. What was the difference between a boy and a man? The “stigma of boyishness,” as one man called it, had to do with frivolous behavior, the lack of worthy aims, and the want of self-control. Any action that was likened to “the play of boys” was contemptible, and a man was “juvenile” if he indulged in boys’ sports. In James Fenimore Cooper’s Last o f the Mohicans, Natty Bumppo chides himself for using up his ammunition impulsively by shaking his head “at his own momentaiy weakness, . . . [and] uttenng his self-disapprobation aloud.. . . "Twas the act of a boy!’ he said.” In die same novel, the Mohican, Magua, vowed on the eve of battle that he and his warriors should “undertake our work like men,”

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not like “eager boys.” Boys had enthusiasm, not judgment, and aggres­ sion without control. A sense of carefully guided passion marked the difference between boyhood and manhood. Henry David Thoreau revealed this assumption in Walden when he described the difference between oral and written language. The spoken word he associated with boyhood, "transitory,. . . a dialect merely, almost brutish, and we learn it unconsciously like the brutes from our mothers.” However, the written word "is the maturity and experience of that [spoken language]; if that is our mother tongue, this is our father tongue, a reserved and select expression,. . . which we must be bom again in order to hear.” Thoreau scornfully heaps mother and son together, connecting the woman and the boy to what is uncon­ scious, spontaneous, "almost brutish.” Manhood, by contrast, is a “re­ served and select expression,” mature, consciously learned, under the careful control of reason.33 What lies beneath this contrast between boyhood and manhood is a set of assumptions about how to control the aggressive passions that were considered a male birthright. As the thinking went, a boy was dri­ ven by his passions, by his eager, impulsive, “almost brutish” nature. Yet he needed to become a purposeful man. How would he make this transi­ tion? To suppress his aggressions—or even to moderate them—would deprive him of the assertive energies that he needed to make his place in the competitive arena of middle-class work in the nineteenth century. But without a clear focus, those energies would be wasted. They might even become destructive. With little conscious articulation, men devised expenences that helped transform the impulsive passions of the boy into the purposeful energies of the man. Academies, colleges, and apprenticeships in com­ merce and the professions served some of these purposes. Probably more effective were the ubiquitous debating clubs, literary societies, and young m ens associations that sprang up inside and outside the formal in­ stitutions of learning. True to their era of individualism, these groups did not rely on elder authorities to shape their manhood. Rather, their youthful members socialized each other.34 In the absence of women and older men, they trained each other in the harnessing of passions and the habits of self-command. Aside from these self-created institutions, some young men turned to demanding life experiences—as sailors, cowboys, boatmen, forty-niners, wandering laborers, and (most dramatically) Civil War soldiers—to teach them the self-discipline needed for the active life of the marketplace.

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The training in manhood that these schools of experience provided was not based on a conscious philosophy, nor did it grow from articu­ lated plans or procedures. Men happened upon these arrangements and they did not describe—or prescribe—them in any systematic fashion. In an era of voluntary associations and ungovemed competition, this infor­ mal system of turning boys into men (which will be described more fully in chapter 3) made a kind of spontaneous sense. But this was a haphazard way to channel energies and limit impulse. In fact, this system looked dangerous to men and women raised in an earlier society where passion was governed by deep-seated ideals of order and the eager vigilance of the community. To many, this new sys­ tem looked like no system at all. Individual desire threatened social ties, unchecked competition raised the specter of destructive personal con­ flict, and self-assertion without social control posed a real possibility of anarchy. As the public world of the individual emerged, a new set of so­ cial arrangements arose alongside of it to provide moral order. In the process, a second system for governing manly passion was bom.

Through most of the nineteenth centuiy, manhood was a m atter of age and gender. Many of the traits that marked a man were found wanting in both women and boys. Reason and emotional control played little part in womanhood or boyhood, according to conventional wisdom. But the contrasts based on age and gender differed in crucial ways. Boys shared a common male nature with men. They did need help in cultivating qualities like self-control and reason (which were regarded as “potential” in males, requiring development), but boys were “inherently” like men. Women, on the other hand, diverged shaiply from men in their “intrinsic” nature. And, unlike boys, women were scorned if they cultivated manly qualities. The definition of manhood based on gender difference was a bit more sharply etched than the one based on age. In fact, the assumed differences between women and men provided a foundation for the doctrine of separate spheres. This elaborate cultural construction evolved in the early nineteenth century. It was a system of symbols that middle-class men and women used to order their social world and understand their mutual relations. Historians have recently come to appreciate the profound impact of the idea of separate spheres on politics, personal relationships, and American culture at large. Ac­ cording to this view, the social realm was divided into two spheres— home and the world. Home was the womans domain, so it was filled with the piety and purity that were “natural” to the female sex. This at-

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mosphere of virtue made home the logical place to raise children, and woman the fit and proper person to do the job. The female sex extended its moral influence over men as well. In the good and godly environment of the home, women supplied the other sex with moral nurture and spir­ itual renewal.35 Men needed to be strengthened in conscience and spirit because they spent so much time in “the world.” The world, according to this moral geography, was the realm of business and public life. It was the emerg­ ing marketplace of competitive trade and democratic politics, the arena of individualism. And, just as womens domesticity fitted them for the duties of the home, so m ens presumed aggression suited them for this rough public life. Indeed, the world was viewed as the locus of sin and evil. It demanded greed and selfishness of a man, tem pted him with power and sensual enjoyment, and set him against other men.36 An arti­ cle that appeared in an 1830 issue of Ladies Magazine described the world by way of contrast with the values of home: We go forth into the world, amidst the scenes of business and pleasure . . . and the heart is sensible to a desolation of feeling: we behold every principle of justice and of honor, and even the dictates of common hon­ esty disregarded, and the delicacy of our moral sense is wounded; we see the general good sacrificed to the advancement of personal interest. Still, virtue had its own sphere, “the sanctuaiy of the home,” where a man could fortify himself against the evil influences of the world: "There sympathy, honor, virtue, are assembled; there the eye may kindle with intelligence, and receive an answering glance; there disinterested love, is ready to sacrifice everything at the altar of affection.”37 From this point of view, the social fabric was tom every day in the world and mended every night at home. Men’s sphere depleted virtue, women’s sphere re­ newed it. This view of the social world had its own historical roots. It built upon the idea of republican motherhood and tapped the growing cultural be­ lief that women were the virtuous sex. As many Northern communities were shaken by evangelical tremors at the start of the nineteenth cen­ tury, the doctrine of the spheres drew upon the evangelical perception of the world as a sinful place.38 Most of all, this new ideology was a response to emerging changes in the workplace. As commercial markets spread at a growing pace, the tempo of middle-class work quickened, and men in business, law, and fi­ nance needed increasingly to spend time in each other’s presence, both

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in the office and out. In the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the commercial and professional offices themselves were moved out of homes and into specialized districts. Thus, men were working longer hours and spending more of those hours farther from home. First by time and then by space, men’s work limited their presence at home. As many middle-class women were freed by their husbands’ prosperity from the necessity of paid labor, they focused more than ever on their domestic duties. Increasingly, women seemed creatures of the home; in­ creasingly, men did not.39 The doctrine of separate spheres responded to changes in the work­ place, and it may also have affected those changes in their later stages. The changes themselves were physical, however, and the ideology of the spheres gave them a different dimension by attributing a moral meaning to them. The ideology was at once a critique of the new commercial world and a blueprint for adapting to it. This elaborate metaphor identi­ fied the new world of individualism and self-interest as evil. Then, rather than question this evil, the doctrine of the spheres offered women as a mechanism to tem per it.40 The idea of the separate spheres was the climax to some of the cul­ tural changes that began in the eighteenth century. While men of the colonial era had struggled to reconcile ideals of public virtue and per­ sonal interest, those ideals realigned themselves along a male-female axis in the nineteenth century.41 In other words, the doctrine of separate spheres entrusted women with the care and nurture of communal val­ ues—of personal morality, social bonds, and, ultimately, the level of virtue in the community. Men were left free to pursue their own inter­ ests, to clash and compete, to behave—from an eighteenth-century point of view—selfishly. Women now stood for traditional social values, men for dynamic individualism. Because bourgeois women were expected to sustain the morality of the men, they acquired the basis for a female political role. Building on the concepts of republican motherhood and the republican wife, the doctrine of separate spheres further empowered nineteenth-centuiy women to cultivate virtue in their sons and husbands. This gave them an indirect means to change behavior in the public arena, but they soon seized more direct forms of influence. After all, it would be difficult to take responsibility for a man’s personal virtue and ignore his behavior m public. And it would be hard to watch over personal morality and.social bonds without tending social morality as well. When the line between private and public virtue was so hard to draw, woman’s role as the custo­ dian of moral goodness inevitably pulled her into the public arena. The

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metaphor of separate spheres implied a political role for women, even if it denied one explicitly.42 The feminine custody of virtue had a second crucial implication: it put women at odds with expected male behavior. After all, if the doc­ trine of separate spheres was a critique of “the world” and the world was mans realm, then the doctrine was also a critique of manhood. Looked at in these gendered terms, the ideology of the spheres was a plan for the female government of male passions. It gave men the freedom to be aggressive, greedy, ambitious, competitive, and self-interested, then it left women with the duty of curbing this behavior. Here, then, was a second idea of how to control male passion. While one concept of control assumed that male groups would focus assertive energies and diffuse their potential for social destruction, the second one directed women to bridle the aggressive drives—the engines of indi­ vidualism—that were associated with men and their sphere. These two philosophies of control were more than merely that; they were really op­ posing conceptions of manhood. Although they shared basic assump­ tions about men's intrinsic nature and social purpose, the two concep­ tions made sharply different judgments of value about manliness and the male sphere. One trusted the unchecked operation of men’s nature to be self-correcting and to create the greatest social good. The other envi­ sioned ungovemed manhood as a socially destructive force. These two strategies for the control of male passion balanced against each other neatly: one meant learning at home, the other meant learning in the world; one meant lessons from females, the other meant lessons from males. But the most obvious piece of symmetiy was missing: one strategy involved mothers, while the other involved peers. W here were fathers? In the new society that developed early in the nineteenth cen­ tury, fathers declined in their importance to sons, and their place was taken by mothers. This change had great significance for the lives of middle-class men and boys; it also had great significance for the way m which middle-class boys learned the strategies to control “male” passion.

Parents and Sons When Francis J. Grund visited the United States in the 1830s, the Eng­ lishman noted that among Boston businessmen a man might “become the father of a large family and even die without finding out his mis­ take.”43 With allowance for hyperbole, this is still an astonishing change. Throughout the colonial period, the father had been the dominant fig-

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ure in the family, yet by the 1830s he was secondary in the household. How had this happened so quicldy? In truth, the foundations of the patriarchal style had been eroding throughout the second half of the 1700s, as ideas and social conditions began to change. By the middle of the eighteenth century, a growing population in the old farming towns of New England had led to a de­ cline in the amount of land available to each man. Thus, fathers could no longer control their sons by promising the gift of a farm later in life. The father lost power and authority.44 This gradual change in the middle years of the 1700s paved the way for acceptance of a new concept of par­ enting, one that reached America from England in the 1760s and 1770s. In the emerging view, parents were no longer to act as stringent authori­ ties, but were to increase their roles as moral teachers.45 In this context, the new notion developed that woman was the embodiment of virtue.46 Thus, the female sex was viewed as inherently suited to the new concept of parenthood, while males appeared less fit for a primary role. By the early nineteenth century, when the work of middle-class men began to pull fathers away from home, fathers readily yielded their traditional role in shaping the character of their sons.47 Indeed, the change was probably underway in many families even before the father began spending his time elsewhere. What was left for a father to do in the nineteenth century? The role he now played was reduced, yet still important. He remained as head of the household, which meant that decisions about the running of a bour­ geois family were ultimately a man’s.48 Furtherm ore, it was his work that supported the household financially. He also served in roles that in­ volved him more directly with his children, especially his sons.49 One of these was his function as chief disciplinarian. Any major infraction of family rules meant that a boy would have to confront his father. O f course, the mother handled the moment-to-moment punishment, since the father was gone for so much of the day. This undoubtedly made the father’s ultimate role in discipline more fearsome, and it must have served to underline his authority and his distance.50 A father did have other important duties that asserted his authority in less awesome fashion. He was expected to prepare his son in a practical sense for entry into the world. A father, for instance, was in charge of his son’s education. In an era before age-graded universal schooling, this in­ volved far more decision making than it does in the twentieth century. And the decisions about education led directly toward a most important choice—the choice of a calling.51 Fathers were expected to advise their sons on this matter, and they used whatever influence they had to get

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their young men started.52 In some cases, fathers themselves tried to se­ lect a son’s career. Many of the most dramatic clashes between fathers and sons came over the issue of career choice.53 A bourgeois father prepared his son for the world in another way—he supplemented his wife’s work in the teaching of virtue. Few moments of major discipline were complete without a lecture from the father; and, as the head of family religious devotions and the chief tutor to his sons, the father had many other opportunities to offer moral instruction. While much of this moral education simply reinforced his wife’s teach­ ing, a man held sway over certain areas of ethics. These were values gov­ erning work, achievement, and property. Fathers taught their sons the importance of perseverance and thrift, of diligence and punctuality, of industry and ambition. This more than any other was a task that fathers seemed to relish.54 Yet a man’s obligations to his sons were not only instrumental and worldly; he was also encouraged to love and cherish them. Given the lofty formal expectations held up for a father, and given his growing ab­ sence from the household, this love was not always offered with great personal wannth or informal ease. But there are, scattered through the middle-class family documents of the nineteenth centuiy, instances of tenderness or relaxed fun between father and son.55 Once a son was grown and established in his own life, a warm, friendly relationship often emerged.56 As the nineteenth century passed, the trend toward absence of the father grew. Longer work hours and lengthy commutes from the new middle-class suburbs removed men even more from the presence of their sons.57Yet, in the final decades of the century, a quiet countertrend emerged. Some men were becoming more involved with their sons. They sought closer emotional ties, expressed affection with growing ease, enjoyed playful times with their boys.58 In these relationships at the end of the century, there was a glimpse of a different sort of future and a new set of expectations for fathers and sons. At the time, though, this newer style remained a countertrend, quietly visible in relation to the dominant theme of formal authority and father absence. Father-son relationships in the nineteenth century presented a com­ plex picture. Fathers still had a place of emotional importance in the lives of their sons. A father was the first man a boy knew, was the ulti­ mate source of material comforts, made decisions that controlled a boy’s life, and was a boy’s predominant role model as a man. Yet he was still a diminished figure, frequently absent from the house, and for most middle-class boys, not the primary parent.

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The reduction of fathers’ status had partly to do with changes inside the father’s life and role. But the reduction was also due to a dramatic enlargement of the other parenting role. For the first time m American history, the mother had become the primary parent. O f course, women had played a vital role in the lives of their sons and daughters throughout the colonial period. They had always been respon­ sible for the physical care of the children, and they were expected to nurture their young ones emotionally during the early years of child­ hood. But there were new expectations of motherhood that emerged at the turn of the nineteenth eentuiy—expectations that helped to start a revolution in the relations between mothers and sons.89 We know that m the late eighteenth eentuiy, the cultural assessment of women’s moral character shifted from negative to positive. This change brought another change in its wake: mothers were now expected to mold the character of their sons, a task that in previous generations had always belonged to fathers. Encouraged by ministers and social critics who told them that the fate of the republic hung in the balance, middle-class women tried to give their sons a sense of virtue that would suit them to face the new, impersonal world of commerce and competition.60 Closely related to this moral expectation was a more personal one: a mother was expected to build strong and lasting bonds with her son. This marked a dramatic change from earlier conceptions. Colonists had believed that a woman’s love was uncritical and indulgent. That was fine for nurturing a small child, but unconditional love, the colonists thought, would ruin older children, especially boys.61 Thus, after the age of five or six, most colonial boys passed to the influence—if not always the physi­ cal care—of their fathers.62 In the late eighteenth century, Americans reassessed the mother’s role. With affection now viewed as a vital part of child-rearing, a woman’s unstinting warmth and tenderness suddenly became an asset. It was, in itself, good for children, and it could help as well in the crucial task of character development.63 Circumstances conspired to encourage women in fulfilling this mis­ sion. With family size declining, a mother could devote more attention to each child.64 Now that the father was gone from home most of the day, a woman could focus her energy more directly on her children. In addition, sons now remained at home for much longer. During the sev­ enteenth and eighteenth centuries, they were often apprenticed or bound out as servants before their midteens; by the end of the nine­ teenth century, young men were sometimes staying with their families until their late twenties.65

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Most mothers took on these new challenges of nurture and uplift with energy and a great sense of purpose. There was a sense not just of stew­ ardship, but of companionship in womens relations with their sons. A New York City woman named Sarah Gilbert described life with her son as a senes of shared activities: “He was my companion wherever I went, we . [knelt] in prayer together, we . . went to the house of God to­ gether, in the pleasurable promenade was my companion[,] in a business walk he was with me.” Hemy Poor remembered a similar experience m the hardscrabble Maine frontier town where he grew up. His mother "was almost the only friend and companion of my boyhood and youth.” He added: “I felt myself on such terms of familiarity and sympathy with her, that I could pour out my whole heart without reserve.”66 Meanwhile, nineteenth-century mothers were devoting themselves faithfully to their other major task, the development of moral character. A woman could cultivate virtue through stories, conversation, shared prayer, or simple exhortation, and her intimate familiarity with her sons helped her to use these different techniques of moral instruction for the greatest effect.67 But a boy needed to do more than learn his mothers lessons. He needed to internalize them and carry them out into the world. In short, he needed to make them part of his conscience. This “tyrannical moni­ tor”—as one youth called his conscience—was not easily developed, but many mothers found a method (unconsciously, it seems) for helping it along. By linking her own happiness to her sons good behavior, a woman could pull her child’s deepest feelings into her moral world and keep them fastened there. As one mother wrote to her son: “O' think how it would break my heart if you were not a Good boy, if you are not even ex­ emplary.”66 Through this combination of love and moral suasion, many boys de­ veloped strong consciences. A letter written by John Kirk, a salesman and abolitionist, suggests the staying power of maternal efforts. Kirk was a grown man with children of his own when he wrote to his mother: How often have I been admonished by your godly prayers and your pious exhortations, when far from home and friends, how often when none but God could see or hear [me, your] monitions followed me, and caused the tears of penitential sorrows and affection to flow from my weeping eyes.69 After a full life, Kirk still heard his m others prayers: she had a power over him which transcended time and space. When the conscience of a nineteenth-century man spoke, it generally spoke in feminine tones.

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The content of a mother's message of virtue was what one might ex­ pect. It was a warning against drink, gambling, and sex. But more persis­ tently, it was an injunction against those vices that came easily in a world engulfed by commerce—selfishness, greed, envy.70 A womans lessons to her sons contained worldly messages, too. A young man would not survive long in the world if he were not industri­ ous, persevering, and wise m his use of time. But the fundamental lessons were lessons of self-restraint. Above all, a boy learned from his mother to hold back his aggressions and control his own "male” ener­ gies.71 It was in this new environment that middle-class boys of the nine­ teenth centuiy were shaped for manhood. With the father no longer dominant and with the m other a powerful and effective tutor in virtue, a boy learned early in life to bridle “male” impulse and approach the world with wary caution. But before he reached the world of men, he entered the world of boys. There he learned another, very different idea of how to cope with his drives and ambitions.

Chapter 2

BOY C U L T U R E

IN 1853, a popular etiquette writer called Mrs. Manners launched an angry attack on the boys of America. "‘Why is it,” she asked, “that there must be a period in the lives of boys when they should be spoken of as ‘disagreeable cubs’? Why is a gentle, polite boy such a rarity?” She con­ tinued her assault m that tone of embattled hauteur so common to eti­ quette writers: “If your parents are willing for you to be the ‘Goths and Vandals’ of society, I shall protest against it. You have been outlaws long enough, and now I beg you will observe the rules.”1 For all her wounded righteousness, Mrs. Manners expressed a widely shared view. Source after source described boys as “wild” and “careless,” as “primitive savages” full of “animal spirits.” They were commonly com­ pared to Indians and African tribesmen. One writer even called them a race unto themselves—“the race of boys.”2 The literary critic Henry Sei­ del Canby—reflecting on his own boyhood in the 1880s and 1890s—em­ phasized the separation of boys’ world from the world of adults: “There was plenty of room for our own life, and we took it, so that customs, codes, ideals, and prejudices were absorbed from our elders as by one free nation from another.”3 This “free nation” of boys was a distinct cultural world with its own rituals and its own symbols and values. As a social sphere, it was separate both from the domestic world of women, girls, and small children, and from the public world of men and commerce. In this space of their own, boys were able to play outside the rules of the home and the market­ place. It was a heady and even liberating experience.

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Technically, of course, boy culture was really a subculture—distinct, oppositional, but ultimately related to the larger culture of which it was a part. Boys shuttled constantly in and out of this world of theirs, home and then back again. Their experiences with boy culture helped to pre­ pare them in many ways for life in the adult spheres that surrounded them. Boy culture, then, was not the only world that a young male in­ habited, nor was it the only one that left its mark on him. Still, within its carefully set boundaries, boy culture was surprisingly free of adult inter­ vention—it gave a youngster his first exhilarating taste of independence and made a lasting imprint on his character. To be sure, this was not the first time historically that Northern boys had been free from supervision. Perpetual supervision of any child is im­ possible. But the circumstances of boys’ lives in the nineteenth centuiy freed them from adult oversight for long periods of time in the company of other boys, and this was different from the colonial experience. In the villages of New England during the 1600s and 1700s, a boy past the age of six was given responsibility for the first time. He began to help his fa­ ther with farm work, which put him in the company of another genera­ tion and not among his male peers. His father did give him independent chores to do, but they tended to be solitaiy activities like tending live­ stock or running errands to other farms. O f course, boys did gather and play in colonial New England, but circumstances made it hard for them to come together on a regular basis in the absence of adults. They lacked the independence and cohesion as a group that boys developed in the nineteenth centuiy.4 These later generations of the 1800s spent more time in the peer world of schoolhouse and schoolyard. Middle-class boys were needed less to do the work of the family They were increasingly isolated from males of the older generation. A growing proportion of them lived in large towns and cities, which brought them in contact with a denser mass of peers. And, in a world where autonomy had become a male virtue, there were positive reasons to give boys time and space of their own. In sum, the conditions were ripe in the nineteenth centuiy for a coherent, independent boys’ world.

Nineteenth-century boys lived a different sort of life in the years before boy culture opened up to them —a life so different from what came later that it bears special notice here. Until the age of six or so, boys were en­ meshed in a domestic world of brothers, sisters, and cousins. They rarely strayed from the presence of watchful adults.® Mothers kept an espe-

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dally keen eye on their children during these early years, for popular thinking held that this was the phase of life when the basis was laid for good character. Thus, for his first five to seven years, a boys adult com­ panions were female and his environment was one of tender affection and moral rigor.6 By the time that boys reached the age of three or four, their mothers were beginning to complain about their rowdy, insolent ways.7 But however much they rebelled, these little boys were still em­ bedded m a feminine world. The clothing that boys wore during their early years served as a vivid symbol of their feminization: they dressed m the same loose-fitting gowns that their sisters wore. One Ohio man described the small boys’ outfit of his childhood as “a sort of Kate Greenaway costume, the upper part of the body covered by a loose blouse, belted in at the waist, allow­ ing the skirt to hang half-way to the knees.” Under these gowns, they wore “girllike panties” which “reached the ankles.”8 Such “girllike” cloth­ ing gave small boys the message that they were expected to behave like their sisters, and served also as a token of the feminine environment that clothed them socially at this point in life. More than that, boys’ gowns and smocks inhibited the running, climbing, and other physical activities that so often made boys a disagreeable addition to the gentle domesticity of women’s world. W hether they meekly accepted the way their parents dressed them or rebelled against its confinements, boys were put in a situation where they had to accept or reject a feminine identity in their earliest years.9 Finally, at about age six, Northern boys cut loose from these social and physical restraints.10 Although they would continue to live for many years in the woman’s world of the home, they were now inhabitants of an alternate world as well.11 In the cities, middle-class boy culture flour­ ished in backyards, streets, parks, playgrounds, and vacant lots, all of which composed “a series of city states to play in.” For those who lived in small towns, the neighboring orchards, fields, and forests provided a natural habitat for boy culture.12 By contrast, indoors was alien territory. A parlor, a dining room, almost any place with a nice carpet, repelled boy culture. Boys did sometimes carve out their own turf within the house—usually in the attic, where dirt, noise, and physical activity cre­ ated fewer problems than in the clean, placid lower floors. And the house was not the only indoor space that was alien. Boy culture lan­ guished in the school and in the church, and it never even approached the offices and countinghouses where middle-class fathers worked.13 How did a small boy enter this new realm at first? One man remem­ bered simply that he “was aware of a great change in [his] world. It was

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no longer contained within a house bounded by four walls . . . [but] had swelled and expanded into a street.”14Perhaps the change came for most boys with a similar lack of fanfare. Certainly, the autobiographies and family correspondence of the time reveal no special rite of passage that marked the entry into boy culture. As they broke away from the constant restriction of home, boys also shed forever the gowns and petticoats of younger days. Suddenly, the differences between themselves and their sisters—so long discouraged by the rules and habits of the home— seemed to be encouraged and even underscored.13 For their sisters were still enveloped by the moral and physical confinements of domesticity and by the gowns and petticoats that were its visible emblems. With great clarity a boy saw that female meant fettered and male meant free.16 Boys, of course, were not absolutely free any more than the girls were literally chained. Indeed, their worlds of play and sociability overlapped at many points. At play, girls shared the yard with their brothers, and on rainy days boys cohabited attics and odd rooms with their sisters. Girls and boys enjoyed many of the same games, such as hide-and-seek mid tag, and they pursued some of the same outdoor activities, such as sled­ ding and skating. But their social worlds and their peer cultures were distinct. Boys had a freedom to roam that girls lacked. Physical aggres­ sion drove boys’ activity m a way that was not acceptable for girls. The activities of both sexes mixed competition with collaboration, but the boys placed a stronger emphasis on their rivalries and the girls stressed their cooperation more heavily. Most importantly, the social worlds of boys and girls had different relationships with the world of adults of the same sex. Boy culture was independent of men and often antagonistic toward them. Girls’ common culture was interdependent with that of women and even shared much of the same physical space. There was continuity, if not always amity, between the worlds of female genera­ tions.17 The same was not true for men and boys. The nineteenthcentuiy emphasis on male autonomy encouraged a gap between genera­ tions of males.

Boy Culture: Games and Pastimes Boys now enjoyed the liberty o f trousers and the independence of the great outdoors. More than that, they were beyond the reach of adult su­ pervision for hours at a time. Boys were suddenly free to pursue a range of activities that would have been difficult if not impossible m the do­ mestic world. The physical activities that had been hindered in early

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boyhood now became particular passions. Hiking, exploring, swimming, rowing, and horseback riding took on special meaning for boys newly liberated from domestic confinement.18 Of course, the boys who grew up in small towns and on farms had the best opportunities to hike and swim, but those who lived in cities had their own chances. Through most of the nineteenth century, urban areas were dotted with patches of scrub woodland where boys could play and explore.19 Even in the huge cities of the century’s later years, rural life could be imported in the form of parks and swimming lessons or impro­ vised in vacant lots and backyards.20 City and country boys had more or less equal access to the best-loved winter activities of boy culture, such as sledding, skating, or throwing snowballs. While boys pursued these pastimes for the simple pleasure of exer­ cise, they engaged in many other activities that set them head to head in hostile combat. Friends fought or wrestled for the fun of it, while other boys goaded playmates unwillingly into fights with each other. The vari­ eties of physical punishment that boys inflicted on each other were as numerous as the settings in which they gathered. At boarding schools in the late nineteenth century, new students were forced by older students to run between two lines of boys who tried to bruise them with clubs and well-shod feet; in another variant, new boys ran naked around the inside of a circle while veteran students hit their bare buttocks with pad­ dles. In Hamilton, Ohio, where William Dean Howells spent much of his boyhood, youngsters threw stones at their friends purely for sport or even as a form of greeting. Beneath this violence lay curious veins of ca­ sual hostility and sociable sadism. One of the bonds that held boy cul­ ture together was the pain that youngsters inflicted on each other.21 If boys posed a danger to one another, they were downright lethal to small animals. Boys especially enjoyed hunting birds and squirrels, and they did a good deal of trapping as well. There were several reasons for huntings great appeal. In the rural North of the nineteenth century, the gun and the rod were still emblems of the male duty to feed one’s family. The hunt, m that way, was associated with the power and status of grown men.22 Yet city boys—given the opportunity to hunt—took the same lusty pleasure in it that their country cousins did. They just liked the challenge of the kill. Another practice that links the hunting habit to the violent tendencies of boy culture is the extravagant sadism that young­ sters sometimes showed when they killed their prey. Boys turned wood­ chuck trapping into woodchuck torture, and they often killed insects simply to inflict suffering. While the boyish interest in hunting and fish­ ing reflected in some part a remnant of earlier manly duties, it was also

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related to the pleasure that boys took in fighting and even stoning one another.23 Not all of boys’ play was so openly violent or so freeform. Popular boys’ games such as marbles, tag, blindman’s buff, leapfrog, and tug-ofwar, demanded physical skill, and most involved exercise and competi­ tion as well. An informal, prehistoric form of football mixed elements of tag, rugby, soccer, and the modem gridiron game with a large dose of free-for-all mayhem. There were also a number of variants on the cur­ rent sport of baseball. W hat united these varied pastimes in contrast to modem games was a lack of elaborate mies and complicated strategies. Spontaneous exercise and excitement were more important than elabo­ rate expertise in boys’ games of the nineteenth century.24 O ther pastimes were more personally expressive. Games that developed on the spur of the moment or that grew slowly within the context of a friendship or a gang revealed many of the preoccupations of boy culture. A favorite sub­ ject in these improvised games was warfare. Sometimes, the young com­ batants took on the roles of the knights they read about m books, while during the Civil War they played the soldiers of their own time.25 The most popular variant on these war games seemed to be the strug­ gle between settlers and Indians. In this case, the boys were often in­ spired by the stories of people they knew or by the local folklore about ancestral generations.26 One revealing aspect of these games involved the choosing of sides. By race and sometimes by ancestry, the boys were kin to the setders. Yet there is no indication that any stigma attached to playing an Indian. Indeed, the boys relished the role of the Indian—as­ sumed by them all to be more barbarous and aggressive—as much as they did the role of the settler.27These settler-and-Indian games allowed boys to enter and imagine roles that were played by real adult males. Such imitative play was a vital part of boy culture, and there were a number o f other popular activities that allowed even closer copying of adult men. Some towns, for instance, had junior militia companies just like the ones for grown-ups, and they often staged mock battles. Boys were also enthusiastic spectators at the militia musters for adults, and joined in the action if they could. There were other settings in which boys could imitate men and even participate m their tasks. During the antebellum era, political parties pressed boys into service for their rallies and parades. Youngsters carried signs and torches and lit victoiy bonfires; they also generated a certain amount of unassigned activity, such as fighting with young supporters of the other party and lighting victoiy bonfires even when the opposition won.28 The boys who lived in antebellum cities followed another exciting

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man’s activity by attaching themselves to volunteer fire companies. Histo­ rians have written about the role that these companies played in the cul­ tural life of the artisan and laboring classes.29 But the work of the volun­ teer fire units was too dramatic for even the most privileged boys to ig­ nore. Eveiy neighborhood had a fire company and, when the ciy of “Fire!” rang out, each one dragged its engine through the city streets and then pumped as hard as it could to play a stream of water on the fire as quickly as possible. The work was hard but stirring, and the competition between companies was so fierce that it sometimes led to violence. In short, the work of the volunteer fire companies contained almost eveiy element needed to seize the imagination of a nineteenth-centuiy boy. Most boys took particular interest in imitating—or taking part in—the work of a specially admired man: their father. Opportunities to do this differed considerably for city and country lads. Rural youngsters, after all, lived in closer proximity to their fathers’ work, and there was much greater need of their help. Even the businessmen and professionals of the small towns kept farms or farm animals for domestic use, and they needed to rely on menial labor from their sons.30 On the other hand, af­ fluent city boys were lucky if they could imitate any of their fathers’ work activities. Not only were urban boys separated from the work world of their fathers, but most of those middle-class men did work that was too abstract to interest a youngster. Buying, selling, and keeping ac­ counts were not activities that caught a boy’s fancy.31 Beneath this differ­ ence, though, lay the essential similarity of urban and rural boy culture, both in values and in purposes. Boys from both settings were drawn to activities that offered excitement and physical exercise. D irt and noise were often by-products of such pastimes. And certain boys’ activities provided special opportunity to enter and imagine the roles of adult males. Above all, the pastimes favored by Northern boys set their world in sharp contrast to the domestic, female world—the world from which they emerged as little boys and to which they returned every evening. W here women’s sphere offered kindness, morality, nurture, and a gentle spirit, the boys’ world countered with energy, self-assertion, noise, and a frequent resort to violence. The physical explosiveness and the willing­ ness to inflict pain contrasted so sharply with the values of the home that they suggest a dialogue in actions between the values of the two spheres—as if a boy’s aggressive impulses, so relentlessly opposed at home, sought extreme forms of release outside it; then, with stricken consciences, the boys came home for further lessons in self-restraint. The two worlds seemed almost to thrive on their opposition to each

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other. Boys, though they valued both worlds deeply, often complained about the confinement of home. The world that they created just be­ yond the reach of domesticity gave them a space for expressive play and a sense of freedom from the women’s world that had nurtured them early in boyhood—and that welcomed them home every night.

Boy Culture: Bonds and Fissures The contrast between boy culture and the domestic sphere extended to the nature and strength of the bonds that cemented each of those two social worlds. The nineteenth-centuiy home was held intact by love and also by adult authority. Its primaiy purpose was nurture, and this tended to draw its members together in emotional support and in common bonds of conscience and self-sacrifice. By contrast, the world Of boy cul­ ture was held intact by less enduring ties. The expressive play that gave boy culture its focus was conducive to self-assertion and conflict more than to love or understanding, and this led boys to create a different sort of bond than that which held together the domestic world. Friendship was certainly the most important relation between boys, and withm their world it took on some distinctive qualities. One writer has said that, in boys’ world, “friendships formed . . . which [were] fer­ vent if not enduring.”32 Evidentiy, these fond but shifting ties had as much to do with availability as with deeper affinities. An autobiographer, describing his younger days in Connecticut, said that “in boyhood . . . friendships are determined not more perhaps by similarity of disposition and common likes and dislikes than by propinquity and accidental asso­ ciation.”33 Boys’ friendships tended to be superficial and sudden, how­ ever passionate they might be for the moment. Given the ephemeral natura of these bonds, it is not surprising that the strongest and most enduring friendships were forged at home be­ tween brothers and cousins. Alphonso Rockwell, who grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, during the 1820s and 1830s, described die close friendship between himself and his cousin Steve: “We were the same age, and from our sixth to our sixteenth years we were constantly to­ gether. Hardly a day passed without our seeing each other.”34 Kin friend­ ships like this one rose on a foundation of love and familiarity that al­ ready existed. O f course, a strong friendship could develop across family lines, too. Hemy Dwight Sedgwick and Lawrence Godldn, who were cross-street neighbors in New York City during the 1860s and 1870s, en­ joyed common activities and shared a deep antipathy to the “muckers”

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from down the block. They remained devoted friends for several years, but Lawrence is most notable in Henrys autobiography for his steadfast loyalty in times of peril.35 Good companionship and unshakable fidelity were the keys to friendship between boys, not confiding intimacy. In­ deed, the consideration of loyalty was so important in the competitive milieu of boy culture that these youthful relationships often took on the qualities of an alliance.36 Loyalty also laid the basis for one of the great passions of nineteenthcentury boys—the formation of clubs. Meeting m attics and cellars, these clubs ranged from a small-town cabal that specialized in melon theft to a natural history “museum” established by Theodore Roosevelt. Two common purposes of these boys' clubs were nurture and athletics. Fellow members raided local orchards and gardens, then they cooked and ate their booty together. Boys formed athletic groups that organized extensive competitions among members. The two purposes of nurture and competition were not mutually exclusive, either. One such club m a small Indiana town met m the attic of a local business building to eat pil­ fered melons and com together. When the secret meal was finished, the boys retreated to a nearby woods to pummel each other in fierce boxing matches which ended “frequently in bloody noses, blackened eyes, and bruised bodies.”37 This club represented a curious mixture: affection joined with combat; mutual nurture combined with assault and battery. Such mingling of friendship with combat was typical of boy culture. In point of fact, boy culture was divided as surely as it was united. Club memberships were always limited, which guaranteed the exclusion of some boys. For example, when Theodore Roosevelt started his nat­ ural histoiy museum as a boy, he invited two of his cousins to join but pointedly excluded his brother, Elliott. Secret words and codes further isolated outsiders, even as they united those who belonged. Rivalry, divi­ sion, and conflict were vital elements in the stm cture of boy culture. Just as friendship between boys bloomed suddenly and with fervor, so, too, did enmity. While good friends often enjoyed combat with each other, hand-to-hand battles did not always take place in a friendly context. In­ stant hostility frequently arose between boys and was “taken out on the spot,” for the youngsters preferred to settle “a personal grievance at once, even if the explanation is made with fists.”38 New boys in town often had to prove themselves by fighting, and older boys amused them ­ selves by forcing the younger boys into combat with each other.39 The fiercest fights of all involved youngsters from rival turf. Indeed, such “enemy” groups played a powerful role in unifying local segments of boy culture, and many boys’ gangs were really just neighborhood

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alliances designed to protect members and turf from other gangs. In the countryside, these divisions pitted village against village or the boys from one side of town against boys from the other. In cities, lines were drawn between the youngsters of different neighborhoods. In a large, densely packed metropolis like New York, the crucial rivalries could even de­ velop between boys at opposite ends of the block.40 Sometimes these ge­ ographic battle lines reflected nothing more than the simple accident of residence; but they often coincided with sharp differences of class and ethnicity, adding extra layers of meaning to boyish antagonisms. Reflect­ ing on his own boyhood, Heniy Seidel Canby recalled the fierce hostility between Protestant boys from the comfortable neighborhoods of Wil­ mington, Delaware, and the Irish Catholic boys from the nearby slums. To reach their private schools eveiy day, the youngsters from the “bet­ ter” families had to cross through enemy turf and pass the public and parochial schools the Insh boys attended. Canby wrote: “Each of us, by one of those tacit agreements made between enemies, had his particular mick, who either chased or was chased . . . on sight... It was an awful joy to spot your own mick.”41 Social differences much less dramatic and vivid could also form the basis for animosity. Henry Dwight Sedgwick described the rivalry be­ tween the beys at the Fifth and Sixth avenue ends of New York’s Fortyeighth Street in the years around 1870. Henry and the others who lived near Fifth Avenue knew that their houses were larger than those at the other end of the block and that their down-street neighbors had opentopped garbage cans which sat out in plain sight instead of under the stoop. Sedgwick and his friends were also aware of a less visible differ­ ence: “Our fathers’ offices and places of business might have interests m common with the offices and places of business of their fathers, but our drawing-rooms, no. O ur women folk could not call upon their women folk.” At most, the difference between the two groups of Forty-eighth Street boys was the difference between various rungs of the middle class, but this contrast—highlighted by geography—was enough to set them against each other.42 While these differences of class and neighborhood carved the boys’ world up into large segments, there were finer gradations within boy culture that produced fewer dramatic confrontations but occupied much more of a boy’s daily attention. In particular, differences of size and skill became major preoccupations in boy culture. The distinction between bigger and smaller boys expressed itself in a variety of ways. Throughout the centuiy and across the Northeast, bigger boys bullied smaller ones. In Wilmington, Delaware, this custom was so common that Henry Sei­ del Canby wrote: “Every little boy had a big boy who bullied him.”43

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Meanwhile, college and boarding school students during all parts of the century were carrying on that ritualized form of bullying known as haz­ ing.44 Smaller boys became victims in various kinds of organized games as well. They played the deserters and spies who were shot in games of soldier, and they were the riders who were knocked off their big-boy “horses” in one version of settlers-and-Indians.45 In some activities, the distinction between age and size blurred: “little” and “young” usually meant the same thing with boys. Among boys who were close together in age and size, another division existed—a series of informal rankings based on skill. They rated each other by weight, height, “pluck,” spirit, appearance, and all sorts of ath­ letic skills from swimming to stone-throwing to ability at various orga­ nized games. The frequent fights between boys established a vitally im­ portant kind of pecking order. Those urban boys who spent much of their time m school ranked each other's scholastic abilities on a finely graded scale. Although youngsters determined some of these ratings by open contest, they established many others through unceasing observa­ tion.46 While this constant process of comparison did not divide boy cul­ ture as deeply as class and geography did, it did provide a basis for elab­ orate, cross-cutting hierarchies within the group and set the stage for many personal jealousies and conflicts.47 In fact, the boys’ world was endlessly divided and subdivided. Clearly set apart from the worlds of men, of very small boys, and of the entire female sex, the realm of boyhood was split into groups by residence, eth­ nicity, and social status. These chunks of boys’ world were ordered inter­ nally by a shifting senes of competitive rankings. Personal animosity cre­ ated further division. Linking boys across these many fissures were fam­ ily ties and the loyalty of friendship. But friendships among boys were volatile affairs—intense, short-lived, and constantly shifting. To a great extent, then, boys’ realm was—like the grown-up world of their fa­ thers—based on the isolated individual. Although it was a little culture based on constant play and full of exuberance and high spirits, it was also a cruel, competitive, uncertain, and even violent world. How, then, did it hold together? It held together because boys adhered faithfully to a common set of values.

The Values of Boy Culture Boy culture embraced two different sorts of values. First, there were ex­ plicit values, those traits and behaviors that boys openly respected in one another. Then there were implicit values embedded in the structure of

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boy culture, values youngsters rarely expressed but which they honored constantly through their daily activities and experiences. Both of these layers of value added to the distinctiveness of boy culture, and both formed a part of the legacy of boy culture by leaving a permanent im­ print on youngsters’ characters. Boys revealed many of their values in the activities they pursued. In a world that centered on physical play, bodily attributes and physical prowess loomed large. Traits such as size, strength, speed, and en­ durance earned a boy respect among his peers.48 More subtle but just as highly valued was the gift of courage. One writer on boyhood called courage “the ethics for ideal conduct in emotional stress,” and for most boys behavior under physical stress was just as important.40 Moments of braveiy fell into two different categories, stoicism and daring. Stoicism involved the suppression of “weak” or “tender” feelings that were readily exposed in the feminine world of home—grief, fear, pain. The boys’ game of “soak-about” was a classic expression of the demand for sto­ icism. In this game, a group of boys tried to hit another boy with a hard ball m any vulnerable spot that was available.50 The victim could not cry out if he was hit—and, just as important, the youngster had to face the possibility of such pain without flinching. Boys valued the ability to suppress displays of fear as well as of pain. When young Alphonso Rockwell and his cousin Steve were surrounded by five menacing rivals, “it was unquestionably a fact that we were scared.” Rockwell remembered that his reaction then was the same as it was many times dunng his service in the Civil War—"to seem not to fear when I was really veiy much afraid.” Instead of showing fear, young Rockwell’s soldierly response was to pick up a stick with one hand and clench the other into a fist. The rival group backed down.51 This stoic courage, a feat of self-control, contrasted sharply with daring courage, which was an achievement of action. Like stoicism, daring found ritual expression in boys’ games. In the contest called “I Conquer,” a boy performed a dangerous feat and as he did so shouted the name of the game to his comrades. The ciy chal­ lenged the other boys to duplicate the feat or lose the game.52 Lew Wal­ lace remembered the boyhood compulsion to dare, noting that he and his friends were “given to [tins] ‘dare’ habit; . . . the deeper the water, the thinner the ice, the longer the run, the hotter the blaze, [then] the more certain [was] the challenge.”53 These experiences with the courage of daring may have left a lasting imprint on the boys who underwent them. A num ber of historians and commentators have noted that die ideal of achievement which grown-ups taught to boys was really the cau-

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tious, abstemious ethic of the clerk, rather than the bold and daring code of the entrepreneur.54 Young males did not learn to be venturesome from the adults who preached hard work and self-denial, but from boy culture with its constant pressure for daring courage. Boldness, like sto­ icism, was a form of courage that youngsters cultivated in boyhood. Physical prowess and the various forms of courage were uppermost among the qualities that boys valued, but there were also others that they expected of each other. Boys demanded loyally between friends and loyalty of the individual to the group. Their concept of the faithful friend closely resembled the code of fidelity that links comrades at arms. The true test of this loyalty came at moments when one boy was threat­ ened and the other came to his aid. When an Ohio boy named Frank Beard was in his early teens, he rose to the defense of his cousin and took a thrashing from a much older youth who was larger and stronger than he. This was the ultimate act of loyalty to a friend.55 Loyalty to the group expressed itself in dealings with outsiders. When boys banded to­ gether to defend their turf against rival groups from other towns or neighborhoods, they were performing a vital act of group loyalty.56 The clubs that boys often formed were also based on loyalty to other mem­ bers of the club and to its codes and secrets.57 There was another group of outsiders to whom boys responded with an exclusive sense of group loyalty—grown-ups. One of boy cultures basic taboos prohibited youngsters from appealing to any adult for help and even from revealing information that would compromise their inde­ pendent activity. If a boy violated this sanction, his peers repaid him with scorn and abuse. To be labeled a “crybaby” was one of the worst fates for an inhabitant of boy culture.'58 Together with courage and physical prowess, loyalty was one of the most valued of qualities among boys—and it was the one that they de­ manded most fiercely of each other. Beneath this layer of values that boys honored consciously, however, there was another layer that devel­ oped from the habits and activities of boy culture. The youngsters them ­ selves rarely discussed these implicit values—it seems that they lay just outside of boys’ consciousness—but the boys learned some of their most important childhood lessons by learning to practice these valued traits and habits. Of these implied values, the one that was most pervasive m boy cul­ ture was mastery. For one thing, youngsters were constantly learning to master new skills. The boys’ many games and pastimes helped them de­ velop a great variety of physical abilities. They also learned a wide range of social skills from their intensive social contact with each other and

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from the negotiations that threaded in and out of their daily round of ac­ tivity. Boys’ experience in their separate world likewise taught them how to impose their will on other people and on nature itself. Their educa­ tion in social mastery went on constandy while they were among their peers. Most of their popular pastimes forced boys to seek each other’s defeat and thus prove individual mastery. At another level, boys strove for mastery by trying to set the agenda for their group of comrades (“dare” games like “I Conquer” were an extreme version of this im­ pulse). Some boys practiced mastery through bullymg. Boys’ attempts to master their environment were often directed at the physical rather than the social world. In a world where people no longer relied on hunting and fishing to feed themselves, the killing of an­ imals taught boys the habit of dominion over their natural environment. Furtherm ore, there were city boys who hunted to enlarge their collec­ tion of stuffed and mounted animals. From this pastime, boys learned to subordinate nature to their own acquisitive impulses. When they named and classified the animals they killed, boys were learning to make nature serve the cause of scientific advance. Other forms of boyhood mastery fed on this same technological drive. The building of toy ships that would actually float, the construction of snow forts, the performance of crude scientific experiments—these common boyhood activities taught youngsters the skills (and the habit) of mastery over nature in the service of human needs and knowledge. The experience of boy culture encour­ aged a male child to become the master, the conqueror, the owner of what was outside him. At the same time, boyhood experiences were teaching a youngster to master his inner world o f emotions. Games like “soak-about” taught boys to control their fears and to carry on in the face of physical pain. Peer pressure also forced them to control those “weak” feelings, as the fear_of being labeled a “crybaby” restrained the impulse to seek comfort in times of stress. As boys learned to master pain, fear, and the need for emotional comfort, they were encouraged to suppress other expressions of vulnerability, such as grief and tender affection. Boy culture, then, was teaching a selective form of impulse control—it was training boys to master those emotions that would make them vulnerable to predatory rivals. Their activities not only put a premium on self-control, but also created an endless round of competitions. Even activities that, were not inherently competitive—swimming, climbing, rock-throwing—yielded countless comparisons. Youngsters were learning to rank their peers, and at the same time they developed the habit of constantly struggling

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up the ladder of achievement. Moreover, as each boy asserted his will incessantly against the others, he grew accustomed to life as a neverending series of individual combats. This environment existed in part because boy culture sanctioned cer­ tain kinds of impulses. Even as it curbed the expression of tender, vul­ nerable emotions, boy culture stimulated aggression and encouraged youngsters to vent their physical energy. The prevailing ethos of boys’ world not only supported the expression of impulses such as dominance and aggression (which had evident social uses), but also allowed the re­ lease of hostile, violent feelings (whose social uses were less evident). By allowing free passage to so many angry or destructive emotions, boy cul­ ture sanctioned a good deal of intentional cruelty, like the physical tor­ ture of animals and the emotional violence of bullying. Yet much of the cruelty in boys’ world was spontaneous and impulsive: as boys’ aggres­ sions were given free rein, the sheer exuberance of exercise and the pure joy of play prevailed, and needless cruelty and unthinking mean­ ness often followed. Boys loved to compare themselves to animals, and two animal similes seem apt here. If at times boys acted like a hostile pack of wolves that preyed on its own kind as well as other species, they behaved at other times like a litter of playful pups who enjoy romping, wrestling, and testing new skills. Such play is rarely free of cruelty or vio­ lence, and the same can be said of boy culture. Playful spontaneity bred friendly play and rough hostility in equal measure. The violence that friends inflicted on each other often signified more than the playful assertion of dominance or the unbndled expression of hostility; ironically, some of boys’ violence was an expression of their fondness for each other. Since boys worked to restrain their tender im­ pulses in each other’s presence, they lacked a direct outlet for the nat­ ural affection between friends. This warm feeling sometimes found ex­ pression in the bonds of the club and the gang and in the dem anding codes of loyalty that bound young comrades together, but another av­ enue of release for these fond impulses came through constant physical exchanges. Samuel Crothers described boys’ world as a place “where the heroes make friends with one another by indulging in everlasting assault and battery, and continually arise ‘refreshed with the blows.’”59 Seen in this light, the boys’ stoning of arriving and departing friends in William Dean Howells’s hometown becomes a perversely affectionate form of salute. This curious marriage of violence and affection also found ritual expression in the small-town club where the boys fed each other and then beat each other bloody in boxing matches.60 The fact that boys expressed affection through mayhem does not

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mean that violence was merely a channel for fond feeling. Boys held back their deepest reserves of cruelty when they scrapped with friends, saving their fiercest fuiy for enemies. In their cultural world, where ges­ tures of tenderness were forbidden, physical combat allowed them mo­ ments of touch and bouts of intense embrace. By a certain “boy logic,” it made sense to pay their affections in the coin of physical combat that served as the social currency of boys’ world. Self-assertion and conflict, in other words, were such dominant modes of expression within boy culture that they could even serve as ve­ hicles for tender feelings. Yet even these were not the most important values of boy culture. There was one value that governed all conduct, that provided a common thread for boys’ activities together, that served as boy culture’s virtual reason for being. This ultimate value was inde­ pendence. What made boy culture special in a youngster’s experience was that it allowed him a kind of autonomy that he had not enjoyed in early childhood. It gave him an independence that he did not have in any other area of life. The experience of boy culture did more than simply teach boys to value independence, though. It abo taught them how to use it. Boy cul­ ture challenged a youngster to master an immense variety of skills; forced him to learn elaborate codes of behavior and complex, layered systems of value; encouraged him to form enjoyable relationships and useful alliances and to organize groups that could function effectively; and demanded that he deal with the vicissitudes of competition and the constant ranking and evaluation of peers. Most of all, the culture of his fellows required a boy to learn all of these tasks independendy—without the help of caring adults, with limited assistance from other boys, and without any significant emotional support. At the heart of nineteenthcentury boy culture, then, lay an imperative to independent action. Each boy sought his own good in a world of shifting alliances and fierce com­ petition. He learned to assert himself and to stand emotionally alone while away from his family. For the part of each day that he lived among his peers, a boy received a strenuous education in autonomy.

Boy Culture and Adult Authority One of boy culture’s most striking features was its independence from close adult supervision. This autonomy existed, however, within welldefined boundaries of place and time. Many adults tried to influence what went on within boy culture even though they did not supervise it.

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In order to understand boys’ world fully we need to understand certain problems that arose at its boundaries: how boys tried to maintain the boundaries; who tried to penetrate them; and how that penetration— when it did happen—affected boy culture. Of all the forces that threatened the borders of boy culture, the most pervasive was the community at large. The confrontations between youngsters and their communities came usually over minor acts of van­ dalism. The reasons for these social collisions varied. Acts of trespass and petty theft often grew out of the blithe disregard that boys had for private property. They refused to recognize the lines that separated one adult’s possessions from another’s.61 At other times, it was the very knowledge of possible trouble with adults that led to vandalism. Boys, after all, were constantly daring each other to perform dangerous acts. And since a confrontation with authority was one kind of danger, risking that confrontation was a way to prove one’s bravery.62 Thus, the pleasure in raiding a garden or an orchard came from the adventure as much as the fruit, and youthful mischief-makers made a sport of avoiding officers of the law and irate property owners. Sometimes an angry private citizen took it upon himself to fight petty youth crime in his community, but doing so made him a handsome tar­ get for another form of boyish malfeasance—the prank. One Ohio man—a “strait-laced Presbyterian farmer . . . who often rebuked the boys for their escapades”—paid for his opposition to vandalism when he found a ghastly battered corpse in his bam one morning. Although a frightened inspection showed that the corpse was a carefully prepared dummy, the episode had given the local boys an effective way to express their resentment of the farmer.63 Pranks, however, were more than just acts of vengeance. They re­ versed men’s and boy’s roles, giving younger males the power to disrupt the lives of older males and forcing the elders to do their boyish bidding. There was, for example, a Connecticut doctor who made a favorite tar­ get for the local boys. The “queerest man of the town,” he had only one eye, spoke in a high falsetto, and possessed the strange habit of dis­ mounting from his horse every time he saw a stone in the road. This made him an easy victim for pranks, as the boys scattered stones in his path and then watched with delight as he got off his horse to throw them away. The boys had found an exciting way to attack the dignity of an adult.64 Pranks resembled petty theft, trespassing, and other forms of vandal­ ism in that they served as skirmishes in a kind of guerrilla warfare that boys waged against the adult world. These youthful raids on adult dig-

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nity and property gave boys a chance to assert their own needs and val­ ues and lay their claim to the out-of-doors as a world for them to use as they saw fit. Acts of vandalism also provided boys with an opportunity to express their hostility toward adult authority—in other words, toward most grown-up men. It was the men (police, constables, irate property owners) who stood in the way of most boys' adventures.65 Finally, the guerrilla warfare of pranks and petty theft gave boys a moment of power to foil the intentions of grown men and to gain the property they wanted. Vandalism represented a statement of hostility and resentment by the males of one generation against the males of another, and it served also as an assertion of the needs and values of boy culture against the needs and values of adult (male) authority. Grown men could rarely control vandalism—they could only oppose it enough to make it a more exciting pastime for boys. Neighbors, teachers, and lawmen fought countless skirmishes with the more troublesome boys of the community. Yet if an enemy of boy culture was one who tried to thwart youthful pleasure or who could compel a boy to do something against his will, then its most potent ene­ mies were fathers and mothers. Parents provided a very different sort of enemy from distant figures of authority. Remote adults could be irked at little emotional cost, but parents were (usually) the two most beloved and powerful people in a boy’s life. How did boy culture fare m its con­ flicts with parents? What happened when the borders of home and boys’ world overlapped or the values of those two spheres conflicted? The situation of fathers presents a simpler picture than that of moth­ ers. Middle-class men had fewer points of contact than their wives did with the boy culture of their sons. While the activities of boys often swirled through the yard and into isolated comers of the home, they rarely approached the offices and counting houses where men spent their days.66 Of course, fathers did intrude into the world of boy culture. In rural areas, a boy was expected to work on behalf of the family even if his father was a prominent lawyer, storekeeper, or politician. Boys might work at home or elsewhere, but it was fathers who arranged the work, and most fathers oversaw it, punishing failures of duty.67 Fathers also frustrated boy culture by serving as head disciplinarians in their families. They were responsible for punishing the most serious breaches of household rules and, as a result, usually meted out the harshest disci­ pline. For example, when Lew Wallace, the future novelist and Civil War hero, was banished from his Indiana home after long years of tru­ ancy and misbehavior, it was his father, not his mother, who banished him. The father also had the duty of punishing his son when someone

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from outside the home complained about the boy’s behavior. For in­ stance, when a Maine boy named John Barnard was caught stealing fruit from a neighbors orchard, it was his father who sat him down for a stem lecture.68 These intrusive duties placed the father in the role of arch­ enemy to the hedonism that typified boy culture. But fathers and other men were only the most visible enemies of boy culture, not the most effective ones. In the role of mother, women had more extensive contact with boys than their husbands did. And it was the mothers—not the fathers—who had the duty of responding immediately to situations that arose in the daily ebb and flow of family life. Women were also more effective opponents of boy culture because of their methods of opposition. They relied less than men on bluster or physical punishment and more on tenderness, guilt, and moral suasion—tactics that seemed to disarm the youthful opposition more effectively than a simple show of power. These contrasts between men’s and women’s tac­ tics grew partly from the difference in their basic social duty toward boys: men were charged especially with the task of maintaining good order; women were supposed to go beyond that and make boys fit for the sober, responsible world of adults. To be sure, young Daniel Beard and his friends spoke from experience in declaring men as the “enemies of boys, always interfering with our pleasure.” But Huck Finn saw deeper when he proclaimed that Aunt Sally wanted to “sivilize” him.69 Inevitably, then, the home and the out-of-doors came to stand for much more than just two physical spaces for women and boys—the do­ mestic threshold marked a cultural dividing line of the deepest signifi­ cance. On one side lay womens sphere, a world of domesticity and civi­ lization; on the other side, boy culture flourished and adult control gave way to the rough pleasures of boyhood. Neither space was exclusive— women entered boys’ world to deliver reprimands and reminders of du­ ties at home, while boys sometimes established their distinctive culture in the nether regions of the household. But the home and the out-ofdoors had powerful symbolic meaning. When boys tracked mud and dirt across clean floors, they did more than create extra housework—they vi­ olated the separation of spheres by bringing fragments of their boyworld into a place where they did not belong. And mothers also viewed their sons’ priceless collections of rocks, leaves, and dead animals as in­ vasions of a civilized world by a wild one. Thus, women and boys fought constantly over muddy footprints and other relics of the outdoors that found their way into the house.70 But mothers did not just struggle to keep the dirt and hedonism of boy culture out of the house. They also fought to extend their moral do-

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minion into boys’ world. Fortunately for women, they had more than one tactical weapon to use in this battle for moral influence. Often mothers attem pted to control behavior by maintaining close contact with boy culture. The women who lived in small towns—and in all but the largest of cities—were members of social networks that sent information about their sons back to them quickly. Since they tended to run their er­ rands in the same neighborhoods where their boys played, mothers could even conduct occasional surveillance of boy culture.71 Most women were able to influence their sons’ activities in the world outside the home. For example, mothers often played a direct and active role in curbing the physical violence of boy culture. Mary Howells punished her son William when she caught him fighting. He reported in later years that it was the influence of mothers which sometimes forced the boys to use buckshot instead of bullets in their hunting guns.72 In a similar vein, mothers kept their sons away from impending “boy-battles” when they had advance knowledge of such events. Women had other avenues of influence besides immediate surveil­ lance and response. Their moral and spiritual authority seemed im­ mense to their sons. Edward Everett Hale referred reverently to his mother’s moral lessons as her “gospels.” Ray Stannard Baker, a journalist who grew up in Wisconsin, remembered his aunts’ religious teachings with less affection. He described these women, who had raised him in place of his invalid mother, as “veritable gorgons of the faith. They knew all of the shalt-nots in the Bible.” He summarized their moral instruction as: “You mustn’t, you can’t. Remember the Sabbath day.”73 The dire warnings against boyish behavior, though, came not just from the word of God or even from a m other’s pleadings. Most of all, they came from the voice of conscience, that “tyrannical monitor” that condemned in a boy’s heart eveiy violation of the moral code he learned at his m other’s knee. Daniel Beard, for one, felt this inner in­ fluence. His heart sank when his m other told him to stay away from the place where his friends were going to battle the boys from the next town. “This was bad news,” wrote Beard, “but I never thought of dis­ obeying her.” So confident was Mary Beard of her influence over Daniel that she made no attem pt to keep him at home. At the ap­ pointed hour, he wandered to a spot overlooking the scene of battle: “I stood disconsolately on the suspension bridge and watched my play­ mates, feeling like a base deserter.” Beard’s conscience held fast;, with no one there to restrain him, he sm othered his own urge to run to the aid of his comrades.74 There were other boys like Daniel Beard who loved to plunge into

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the endless tumult of boys’ world but who were held in check by their own consciences. Lew Wallaces habit of truancy from school was re­ strained only by “the thought of [his] m others fears” and his memory of her “entreaties and tears.”75 Clearly, mothers had an immense influence which extended beyond their physical presence and stretched as far as a boy could roam. Yet, as the Wallace example shows, maternal influence could not halt the operation of the wayward impulses that drove boy cul­ ture—it could only curb them. Boys, m other words, could not subdue their surging desires. They were pulled one way by the power of impulse and tugged another way by the voice of conscience. In this struggle, the pressures of boy culture supplied a powerful coun­ terforce to maternal influence. The worst fate a youngster could suffer at the hands of his peers was to be labeled a “mamas boy.” One man wrote that “the most wicked and wanton song I knew [as a boy] was”: Does your mother know you’re out? No, by thunder, no, by thunder! Does she know what you’re about? No, by thunder, no, by thunder! The boys especially liked to sing this song as they performed feats of danng. The implication was that a mother’s control was powerful—but it was delightful to slip beyond her grasp into forbidden pleasures.76 A vignette from a midcentury etiquette book suggests the ubiquitous influence of peer values on boys. As a mother éamestly tries to tie a rib­ bon m her son’s collar, he complains that “the boys’ll call me ‘dandy,’ and ‘band-box,’ and ‘Tom Apronstnng.’” The author of the book replies that Cousin Horace (the local paragon of good manners) “plays very heartily, too .. he is no ‘girl-boy.’” Even mothers knew the pressures that boys exerted on each other to ignore maternal pleas and abide by the stan­ dards of boy culture. It was a painful insult when a boy was accused of being tied to maternal apron strings or was reduced to the earlychildliood status of “girl-boy.”77 Such potent ridicule gave boys a powerful weapon for forcing others to reject their mothers’ influence and conform to the hedonistic norms of their own cultural world. Under this kind of pressure, boys did much more than refuse to wear ribbons in their collars. Henry Seidel Canby remembered from his childhood that “breaking windows on Hallow E ’en, swearing, pasting a cow with rotten eggs, or lining the horsecar tracks with caps to make the spavined horses run down grade, were protests against being ‘goody goody.’” Daniel Beard and his friends

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scorned boys who “never went barefoot,. . . wasted a lot of time talking to girls, took no hikes, bathed often but seldom went swimming, won prizes at Sunday school but never on the ball field, and bought kites in­ stead of making them.”78 Clearly, boys had a fine-tuned sense of who be­ haved acceptably and who did not, and nearly all of the unacceptable be­ haviors were ones encouraged by mothers. Boys employed ridicule, os­ tracism, and hazing to defend the values and integrity of boy culture from maternal assault.79 The boys’ world was a culture governed by shame. Male youngsters were constantly watched by the eyes of their youthful community. If they violated the rules of their subculture, boys were subject to name­ calling, scornful teasing, and even separation from the group. The threat of such painful treatm ent usually kept boys in line while they were to­ gether. But once away from the presence of their group, boys found it easier to follow along with domestic values. O f course, they misbehaved at home, too, but that was in response to their own impulses, not be­ cause of what the other boys would want them to do. Accounts of nineteenth-centuiy boyhood show absolutely no evidence that boy cul­ ture affected youthful male behavior at home (unless, of course, it was a m atter like dress that would in due time become visible to other boys). By contrast, the inner controls implanted largely by women were those of guilt. Boys carried the influence of maternal values out into their own world. Their consciences, as we have seen, made them feel guilty at some of their boyish misdeeds and held them back from committing others. Thus, women’s sphere and boy culture differed sharply in the way they exercised social control. In this control, as in so many other as­ pects of values and behavior, the two different social spaces represented two divergent approaches to life. Some of the most important lessons that a youngster learned from his experience of boy culture were the lessons about living a life divided be­ tween two spheres. He adapted to a constant process of home-leaving and return. And he quicldy discovered that this process meant more than just a physical change of scene. It meant a constant adjustment to the clashing values and demands of two different worlds—back and forth from a domestic world of mutual dependence to a public world of independence; from an atmosphere of cooperation and nurture to one of competition and conflict; from a sphere where intimacy was encour­ aged to one where human relationships were treated instrumentally; from an environment that supported affectionate impulses to one that sanctioned aggressive impulses; from a social space that was seen as fe­ male to another that was considered male. At the same time that a boy

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learned to live in a world divided, he was also learning to live with di­ vided loyalties and a divided heart. It was a conflict that would form a basic part of life for middle-class men.

Outgrowing Boy Culture Boys defended the boundaries of their world zealously. They waged hitand-run warfare against adults who tried to stifle their pleasures, and they harassed without mercy those boys who called on grown-ups to in­ tervene in their affairs. But there was one boundary that they could not protect—the boundary of age that separated boyhood from manhood. In time, all boys grew up. The end of boyhood in the nineteenth century did not come as it comes in the twentieth. There was no sequence of events that marked the progress of boys from childhood to manhood, and there were no key ages at which all youngsters reached important milestones. In earlier times, apprenticeship had marked an end of sorts to the boyhood years (though even the ages of apprenticeship might be indefinite). In the nineteenth century, the ages and events that brought boyhood to a close varied sharply with family and personal circumstances.80 In spite of these vague age boundaries, there were a few important events that marked the end of boyhood for many youngsters. These often had to do with leaving home or taking a first clerkship or full-time job. One dramatic example comes from the experience of Lew Wallace. When Lew was in his midteens, his father brought his carefree years of rambling and truancy to an end by turning him out of the house to sup­ port himself. Lew took on a clerical job, and, while working at it, con­ ceived the literary ambitions that formed part of his work m manhood.81 Alphonso Rockwells boyhood also ended with the start of a clerkship, though his departure from home was more amicable than Wallaces— and m that sense was more typical. Looking back from old age, Rockwell realized that his boyhood stopped on the day he left his home in Con­ necticut to take his new position in New York City: The ties that held me to boyhood days and pleasures along old and famil­ iar lines were to be broken forever. Henceforth there were to be no more trips to “Indian Rock” m the company of boy intimates, where we imag­ ined ourselves wild Indians . nor would I ever m the days to come sail [the familiar ponds and streams], or swim m them, or walk their banks with the zest or sense of pleasure I had known.82

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Alphonso was assuming new statuses now—self-support, a home away from his family—which were acknowledged as distinctive marks of man­ hood. But these were not the only changes that signified the end of boy­ hood. A teenager also brought his time in boy culture to a close when he took his first strides toward another signpost of manhood—marriage. The journey toward marriage began with the dawning interest of pubes­ cent boys in the opposite sex.83 As boys developed an interest in girls, the customs and habits of boy culture started to lose their luster. Daniel Beard recalled in his autobiography the ways in which his outlook changed when an attractive new girl arrived in town: "Suddenly marbles became a childish game which made knuckles grimy and chapped. .. Prisoner’s base was good enough sport but it mussed ones clothes.” The rhymes and rituals of boyhood now “seemed absurd instead of natural” while the services at church took on a new interest. Daniel suddenly began to appear in public with his face clean and his hair neatly combed.84 The pubescent boy did not, of course, return to the gowns and petti­ coats of his earliest years, but he did compromise with the demands of domesticity and restraint. H e accepted willingly the confinement of clothing that had once seemed like shackles, and he wiped the oncetreasured grime of outdoor activity from his face and hands. As he took his first steps toward marriage, a life’s work, and a home of his own, he clothed himself in the garb of “civilized” manhood and washed off the marks of “savage” boyhood.85 The cares and commitments of manhood now loomed up before teenage boys. At first sight, boys approached manhood eagerly; they were impatient to leave behind them the separate world that they had guarded so jealously. For example, when Alphonso Rockwell left his home in Connecticut to start his first clerkship, he did not reflect on the pleasures of boyhood (as he would in later years). Instead, he felt that he “was taking a step up in the world.” Swelling with the sense of his own growing importance, he told his carriage driver on the day that he left home to drive fast, “as it would not do for me to miss the train .. I [have] an important engagement to meet in New York.”86 Charles Dudley Warner’s observations on the end of boyhood ran par­ allel to those of Rockwell. He, too, was nostalgic about boyhood later m life, complaining that “just as you get used to being a boy, you have to be something else, with a good deal more work to do and not half as much fun.” Yet W arner was quick to admit that “every boy is anxious to be a man, and is veiy uneasy with the restrictions that are put upon him as a

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boy.” Warner also pointed out that, as much as boys liked to “play work,” most would gladly trade it for a chance to do “real work”—that is, a mans work. As we noted earlier, some boy-culture pastimes imitated mens activity or offered direct (if token) participation in the work of male adults.87 Yet, there were important disjunctions between boys’ world and the world of men, gaps of duty and expectation that loomed like chasms before a teenage youth. The experience of facing those gaps and then trying to bridge them produced one of the most trying times m the lives of nineteenth-century men: the treacherous and often pro­ longed passage from boyhood to manhood. The contrasts between boy culture and the world of men were sharp ones: boy culture emphasized exuberant spontaneity; it allowed free rein to aggressive impulses and reveled in physical prowess and assertion. Boy culture was a world of play, a social space where one evaded the du­ ties and restrictions of adult society. How different this was from the world of manhood. Men were quiet and sober, for theirs was a life of se­ rious business. They had families to support, reputations to earn, re­ sponsibilities to meet. Their world was based on work, not play, and their survival in it depended on patient planning, not spontaneous im­ pulse. To prosper, then, a man had to delay gratification and restrain de­ sire. Of course, he also needed to be aggressive and competitive, and he needed an instinct for self-advancement. But he had to channel these as­ sertive impulses in ways that were suitable to the abstract battles and complex issues of middle-class m ens work. Finally, a man—unlike a boy—needed a sense of responsible commitment. He could not throw over his family, disregard his business partners, or quit his job on a whim. A man had to have a sense of duty based on enduring loyalty, not on the strongest impulse of the moment. Manhood presented a young male with challenges for which boy culture had not fully prepared him. With the leap from boyhood to adulthood, a young man gave up heed­ less play for sober responsibility. The strain of transition from boy culture to the world of men—com­ ing simultaneously with the painful experience of leaving home—cre­ ated a stressful and uncertain phase of life. Starting usually in the middle to late teens, a boy (often called a youth by now) struggled to make the transition on his own. There was no rite of passage to help him through. Society left him largely on his own to find his way to an adult identity.

Chapter 3

MALE Y O U T H C U LTU R E

IN the life of the nineteenth-centuiy male, the time of transition from boyhood to manhood was variable m length and loose m the definition of its boundaries. This period of flux, when it received any name at all, was called youth. It began in a boys teens and lasted until his twenties or even thirties. In youth, a young male might engage m a variety of activi­ ties, ranging from education to on-the-job training to menial labor, that prepared him for adult responsibility or gave him a chance to mark time while he chose a course for the future. During this transitional phase, young males lived in settings that ranged from boardinghouses to college dormitones to their own family homes, and they often shuttled back and forth between these settings. A leading historian has aptly called this a penod of “semidependence,” since a youth’s relation to his family was ambiguous and—m some cases—frequently shifting.1

Between the Past and the Future Youth, in general, was ill-defined. Boyhood and manhood, with their clashing demands and their differing styles of behavior, mixed awk­ wardly. A young man had no standard pattern by which to chart Ins course through this phase of life, but he did share with his male peers a common set of personal issues that needed to be resolved. These issues reflected the transitional nature of this time of fife in the way that they

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fell into two groups: those that connected to the youths past and those that concerned his future. While the circumstances of daily Ufe forced a young man to focus on his future, his inward attention often drifted toward the commitments of his past, and especially toward his attachment to home. He had to loosen that attachment, but to do so was not a simple matter. Leaving home meant much more than sleeping under a different roof and minding ones own money. It meant turning away from a world cloaked in an aura of love, piety, nurture, and dependence; it meant separation from con­ fining moral and spiritual influences; and it meant setting out from a fe­ male realm to join a male one. This complex change created many cross­ currents of feeling. To leave behind a familiar world for a world unknown can be trying under any circumstances, but this departure became more difficult m the 1800s than it had been in the previous centuiy. The known realm of home was now separated from the unknown world of men by a vast, growing gulf of symbolism and beliefs. The actual connection between home and the “world beyond” was looser than it had been in the 1700s. A boy from a family of status in the eighteenth centuiy had left home to work or study among relatives and family friends. As the old ties of com­ munity and extended kin weakened in the nineteenth century, however, going out into the world was more likely to mean separation from famil­ iar places and people.2 The painful difficulties of the break from home were evident in young mens letters and diaries. Homesickness suddenly became a common topic of discussion in the nineteenth centuiy. The word did not enter the English language until the late eighteenth centuiy, and it did not appear in any of the source materials studied here until 1806. Then, within a few years, comments like “I begin to feel homesick” and “I am a little homesick” became commonplace.3 Countless letters and dianes describe young mens separation from home, sorting motives and analyzing feelings. Theodore Russell, a Mass­ achusetts youth, wrote to his sister in 1835 that he was puzzled by the willingness of young men like himself to leave “the warm and devoted friendship” of home for the “cold and heartless applause which is . . . [the best} that can . . . await us m the world.” Three years later, when Russell was about to set forth into the world as a lawyer, he again felt caught between personal ambition and the backward pull of boyhood. “I can almost wish,” he wrote, “to throw aside the energies of man, the soul stirring scenes of later years, the hope, the cares, the joys, the realities of manhood, again to pass into the sweet dreamy times of boyhoods ro-

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manee.” But Russell resisted this wish, for he believed that self-assertion was natural and manly. “Man,” he wrote, “is made for action, and the bustling scenes of moving life, and not the poetiy or romance of exis­ tence. I am willing, I am earnest, to launch forth into the world.” Within a few years, Russell had risen to political and legal prominence in Boston.4 When he discussed young men’s conflicted feelings about leaving home, Theodore Russell cast the issue as a struggle between attachment and worldly ambition. But the conflict raged at other levels as well. In the moral symbolism of the time, home was sacred. It was the place where a boys piety and virtue were cultivated, and it was seen as his chief source of warmth and security.5 Yet, in symbolism and in personal experience, the domestic realm meant restraint, dependence, confine­ ment, and submission for a young man. Breaking away from home stirred deep feelings of ambivalence. John Barnard, a native of Maine, described the immobility that plagued him from his teens to his early thirties m these terms: Two forces act upon me with equal power[ ] the centripetal—which draws me towards my father and mother and friends—the centrifugal which acts as a repellant and drives me to seek wealth and distinction in foreign lands[;] these forces being at present equal hold me stationary at a fixed distance from home[,] nor can I tell which way I may be precipi­ tated.6 Eventually, Barnard compromised by seeking wealth and distinction near his family and fnends in Maine. But his tortuous indecision of more than a decade had made youth a painful time of life. He was caught be­ tween the pull of his past and the lure of his future.

Seeking a Future As a young man tried to shake free from the powerful grip of his past, he faced a host of problems in determining his future. Economic uncer­ tainty, moral qualms, inner restlessness, and the vague requirements of entiy into middle-class occupations all created potential problems dur­ ing youth. But the greatest concern of young men facing the future was the quest for commitment in two fundamental arenas of life: love and work. Young men wrote to each other constantly about their attempts to at-

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tract feminine attention and about their hopes and fears regarding mar­ ried life. In particular, they shared feelings of sadness and defeat when rejected by the young women they pursued. As they were tossed be­ tween elation and despair, young men were often shaken by a sense of vulnerability. At one lull in his romantic life, Daniel Webster asked a friend to “forget all the weakness and vanity" exposed in him by the “un­ reserved intimacy” of a recent love affair. Young mens feelings about themselves and their future were threatened by the pursuit of love and marriage.7 The other key to men’s self-esteem and social identity was their work. Here, too, youth was a time of turmoil and uncertainty. As Rutherford B. Hayes wrote during his college years, his profession would be “the pass­ port . . . to all that I am destined to receive in life.” With so much at stake, young men wrote avidly about their careers—choosing them, en­ tering them, succeeding and failing at them. Much of the anxiety pro­ voked by this choice grew out of a fear of failure. Here is how young M. S. Bailey felt in 1880 when he first tried his talents as a lawyer: “If I had confidence in myself to make a comparative success then I could live on . with no fears for the future, but as it is I am m continual doubt and full of misgivings.” And yet, m the vety same letter, Bailey wrote of his adopted Colorado: “I am already filled with visions of riches. . . Here is a vast field for workers and vast amounts of money to be got­ ten . . . I shall work and work to win.” Bailey’s fears, his doubts, and lus determination were all typical at this point in his life, and he vacillated wildly among them.8 At the same time that his feelings and his deepest commitments were m flux, a young man was confronted by uncertainty in other crucial as­ pects of life. For instance, a youth who sought a place in the professions or the upper ranks of business was confronted by a loose, eccentnc set of entrance requirements. If he aspired to the professions, a college educa­ tion might prove helpful. But academy learning could suit him well enough, and a humble education in a village schoolhouse might be suffi­ cient for a youth of talent and ambition. By custom, the final step toward the law, medicine, or the ministry was a period of study or apprentice­ ship with a member of the profession, but there were men who became professionals simply by hanging out a shingle. The route into the upper ranks of commerce involved even less formal education than that re­ quired of a future professional, though some sort of clerical apprentice­ ship was usual. The upward path in manufacturing was even less clearly defined. Success might reward the man with little formal education but long experience in a particular mode of production.9

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Even these descriptions of the uncertain routes to middle-class suc­ cess make the experience of the m neteenth-centuiy youth appear more fixed and certain than it really was. Some young men, for instance, em­ barked on their life's work before they were twenty, while others did not commit themselves to professional preparation until they were nearly thirty. The pursuit of success might be stalled by any one of a number of factors. Some young men interrupted their educations to help support their parents; some were frozen by indecision in choosing a career, or changed occupations after the initial choice. Many youths marked time by teaching school; other restless young men strayed further from middle-class work, finding employment as sailors, riverboatmen, or cowhands, or even roamed from place to place, searching for any work they could find.10 These unsettled ways of living could provide excite­ ment, but they could also leave a youth frustrated and despondent. Aaron Olmstead, a young New Yorker, received a letter from his sister about a restless friend who traveled the country looking for a job: He has been all through N.Y. Ohio Indiana Illinois pretty thoroughly— went down the nver as far as New Orleans, and then wended his way to­ wards home going from one place to another in hopes of finding some­ thing b etter.. he came home destitute enough I assure you. I know not whether it will satisfy him.11 The constant changes of place during youth signified more than a search for employment and adventure; they reflected an uncertain sense of self. This was especially evident in confusion about personal values. Some young men worried that they lacked the strength to maintain moral standards without the daily influence of their parents. One youth who confronted this situation was Sergeant Kendall. As an eighteenyear-old art student in Paris, Sergeant was living an ocean away from his family in New York. He wrote to his parents of a “steady ‘blue’ feeling about [himself]” that came from his fear of moral weakness: “I feel somehow less noble than I used to be, less thorough and sincere with myself, less firmly resolved to do right at any course, somehow more lax m my feelings and not so determ ined to draw a sharp line between right and wrong.” Such words of moral self-doubt echo through the writing of young men from all parts of the nineteenth century.12 While some young men feared that they lacked strength to live by long-cherished values, others were rejecting their families’ principles. Hiram Bingham III, the son and grandson of distinguished missionaries.

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was raised to follow the family calling. But by the time he reached his mid-twenties, Hiram was rejecting God, courting a worldly young heiress, and exploring careers in chemistry and history. In a letter writ­ ten at this point in his life, Hiram begged for pardon. "Father, forgive me, O forgive me if you can,” wrote the young man. “I know that [my] proposed plan of life is not in accordance with your wishes nor your be­ liefs. I am now more sorry than I can tell.”13 Bingham at least was grabbing hold of a new moral standard. Other young men were far more confused about their values and their personal lives.14 Ray Stannard Baker summarized this feeling when he described his life m his early twenties: I had not yet learned what I was good for, and I was tom between what I wanted to do, and what I thought it was my duty to do. I was disturbed m my religious beliefs; I was halfway in love with three or four girls; I could see no prospect. for years of earning enough money to set up a home of mv own. *

Baker described these years as “exciting,” "adventurous,” and “educa­ tive,” but he also called them a "hopeless” time full of “doubt” and “frus­ tration.”15 The confusion experienced by Baker and others like him was not sim­ ply personal. It grew out of vague expectations. For a male youth occu­ pied a social niche that lacked definition. It was a status without a status: a youth was neither a boy nor man. There were, as we have noted, few customs or social supports to help a youth through this passage. Male youths could sometimes turn to fam­ ily, women friends, and mentors. However, a family was often far re­ moved from the realities of a young man’s everyday existence, and his feelings of dependence on them at this point in life could make their help problematic. Also, a youth might feel reluctant to turn to a woman fnend or to a mentor at work or in the classroom. After all, such people represented the two areas of life—love and personal advancement—that created the most anxiety in the first place. Lacking all these customary forms of support, the young man turned to a different source—other young men. They were, after all, the people who shared the same hopes and fears, the same daily experience, the same uncertain passage from boyhood to manhood. At no other time in life were males so likely to seek help and reassurance from their male peers as during these turbulent years of transition.

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Youth Culture and Boyhood In the nineteenth century, young Northern men with professional or commercial ambitions congregated in certain places. These places were most visible in the busmess areas of America’s burgeoning cities, where clerks from commercial and professional offices gathered in great num­ bers; but they also formed smaller groups in countless rural towns where the clerks at local offices and stores mingled with teachers from neigh­ boring hamlets to provide mutual support and diversion. Male youths also clustered together at the many colleges and academies that sprang up across the Northern countryside in the nineteenth century. Even the growing lads who went to sea or headed west found themselves congre­ gated in all-male groups. And wherever young men gathered, a special culture appeared. It expressed the peculiar needs of youth and at the same time provided a means to satisfy those needs. As young men passed through a transitional phase in life, the culture that evolved among them combined elements of the boys’ world they had left behind with aspects of the men’s life they had not yet attained. One way in which male youth culture repeated the experience of boys’ life was in its emphasis on self-created clubs and organizations. In­ deed, young men were elaborating the boyhood experience more than repeating it, for they started associations wherever they turned, and channeled far more of their collective life through their organizations than boys did. Male youth culture was not completely encompassed by these associations, but the organizations founded by young men ex­ pressed the needs and fears they felt. Presumably, informal social groups had always existed among Ameri­ can youth. In colonial New England, a sort of youth culture had ap­ peared where young men were concentrated in large numbers; colleges, in particular, had bred such a culture. Yet there had been few formal youth organizations in the colonial era, and those that had developed were created largely by adults. Formal, self-created associations of youth did not begin to emerge until the late 1700s. In that era, college students formed the first literary societies, while apprentices in the larger cities and towns of the North founded organizations for self-improvement and sociability.16 These literary and apprentice societies provided models for many types of self-created youth organizations m the nineteenth century. The direct descendants of the apprentice societies were the young men’s as­ sociations that grew up during the early 1800s. They were started by young clerks and nascent professionals who sought mutual improvement

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and shared fun. By the turn of the century, literary societies and debate clubs were also springing up m cities and rural areas as well as colleges, and they remained vital institutions for much of the century. While these groups worked more intensively to cultivate the intellect than the ap­ prentice societies or young men’s associations did, they closely resem­ bled those organizations in the way they mixed social life with selfimprovement.17 Meanwhile, the religious ferment of the early nineteenth centuiy spurred young people to use the format of the young m ens organiza­ tions for specialized purposes. Zealous converts founded religious soci­ eties and reform associations, some of which confined their membership to male youths. Even these groups—narrow though they were in pur­ pose—provided social cohesion m the lives of the young people who be­ longed to them .18 Then, too, there were young men’s organizations whose purposes were almost entirely social. Secret societies, lodges, and fraternities grew up like weeds throughout the nineteenth centuiy. They flourished in any place with a concentration of young men—cities, towns, colleges—and they took varied forms. Some were spontaneous, informal clubs that a few young men created for their own passing enjoyment, while other groups sought to perpetuate themselves in institutional form and spread their web of good fellowship to new places. In either case, these soci­ eties offered social acceptance at a time of life when other bonds and commitments were in flux.19 Some of the functions served by this special subculture met needs that harked back to boyhood. Young men’s organizations performed many functions of a family. Since male youths often lived in neutral set­ tings like boardinghouses and residential hotels, their lives lacked the nurture associated with home and family. Thus, they joined (or started) organizations that openly expressed a familial nature. The Young Men’s Christian Association in Utica, New York, appealed for funds by pointing out: “Many a young man in this city of yours spends his days at work, perhaps in some mechanics shop, or mill, or office, or in your stores, [and] when at night comes home has nowhere else to go, for at the best the little room he calls his own is no HOME to him.” The appeal also re­ ferred to the YMCA libraiy as a refuge for “many half-homeless wander­ ers in these streets.” The departed members of one young men’s society referred to members who remained as "friends at home.”20 The male youths who belonged to these groups showed familial feel­ ings in other word usages. They often referred to each other as “broth­ ers,” and some of their organizations were called “fraternities” or “frater-

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nal lodges.” For some, the term “house” had powerful attractions; col­ lege fraternities in particular used that domestic term for their club buildings. And young m ens societies of various lands built or bought homes which they furnished m a domestic style.21 lik e families, male youth groups provided a setting for common nur­ ture. literary societies, college fraternities, and friendship clubs rarely met on a formal basis without enjoying a meal together, and when the group was small, one member usually provided food for the others. Shared nurture increased the sense of brotherhood.22 Most of all, an atmosphere of friendship and fraternal warmth gave young men’s clubs their resemblance to families. W hatever other pur­ poses a young men’s association served, it had little future if it did not nourish strong personal bonds. Writing about his years at college, Alphonso Rockwell had “to confess that [his] best fnends were .. ob­ tained” through his fraternity. Indeed, a great many young men’s groups had their origins in areles of friends who sought to organize and extend themselves. As a college student, Rutherford B. Hayes participated m the founding of such a club. He and eight friends at Kenyon College started a group called Phi Zeta. The club derived its name from the ini­ tials of its Greek motto, Philia Zoe (“Friendship for Life”), and it took as its main object the promotion of “firm and enduring friendship among its members.” The larger associations of male youth proved fertile ground for these smaller and more intimate friendship groups. For in­ stance, a cadre of close friends from the Boston Mercantile Library As­ sociation formed a small club in the late 1830s called Attic Nights. The members were all Boston clerks with strong literary interests who met to read, talk, and eat together on Saturday evening. Warm friendship groups like these helped to bmd larger male youth groups m familial feeling.23 Male youth organizations, then, provided nurture and warmth that young men had expected from their families, but the young men’s orga­ nization was emphatically an all-male family. The appeal of these associ­ ations lay not only in their resemblance to the family, but also in their links to boys’ world. Young men’s collective life retained some of boy cul­ ture’s defining qualities—its emphasis on enjoyment and play, its uneasy mixture of competition and camaraderie, and sometimes its violence and hedonism. To say the least, male youth culture lacked the placid re­ straint of middle-class family life. In spite of high-sounding titles like “debating society” and “hbraiy as­ sociation,” nearly all young men’s organizations provided entertainment. The elaborate banquets and parties which they staged were indeed fa-

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milial moments of common repast, but they were more than that. They also provided the occasion for jesting and laughter, for song and drmk, and for all sorts of rough fun from food fights to wrestling matches. In addition, male youth organizations as diverse as apprentice associations, sailing clubs, and college fraternities produced plays, which were usually open to the general public. Young men’s organizations also presented the debates and literary exercises from which so many of them took their names. Those were not just intellectual performances, however. They usually took place in a social—or even a festive—context. At the meeting of a literary society or college fraternity, a debate or a series of orations and poems would often serve as the evenings entertainment. On some cam­ puses, the contests between rival debating societies took on the partisan atmosphere that later typified football games. In many towns, a literary presentation or debate might be the only entertainm ent of an evening, and thus a major social event. Even in the larger cities, the lyceum lec­ tures—which as often as not were adjuncts or offshoots of young men’s associations—were occasions to see and be seen, to meet and greet ones friends. The conversations and chance encounters before the lectures or dunng the intermissions spawned many small parties afterward.24 An especially popular form of entertainm ent when young men gath­ ered was the testing of wits. This testing often took the organized form of sardonic toasts which were directed unsparingly at other group mem­ bers and often built into a competition of witty insults. Many organiza­ tions staged spoofs or satiric revues which poked clever fun at the club’s members. Above all, the testing of wits happened informally in the ceaseless cut and thrust of daily conversation between ambitious youths. One former clerk recalled the atmosphere of his literary society* “We educated each other by criticizing and laughing at each other.”25 Clearly, the life of young men’s organizations grew out of boy culture. This was an associational world that valued fun and amusement. The surging competitive impulse that typified boy culture also functioned as a shaping force in the culture of male youth. The spirited competition of young men’s debates and the heated rivalries between literary societies or debating clubs showed that the combative urge of boyhood still flour­ ished. The verbal thrust-and-parry of male youth groups also expressed the urge to compete. In fact, that ceaseless clash of wits between friends recalled the physical combat of loyal playfellows in boyhood. Although the means of expression changed, the basic principle of mixing affection with attack remained the same. While competition could unite, it could also divide. Here again, the

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organized world of young men resembled the boy culture that preceded it. The clubs and gangs that blossomed in boys' world served to exclude as much as include, and the fraternities and associations of male youth had much the same effect. The young men's societies in cities and towns competed for members, prestige, and public attention, and thus set groups of ambitious youths against each other. The divisive effect of this competition was most visible in college settings, where the community was small and closed. There, rivaliy loomed large, jealousy fed on exclu­ sion, and personal rejection was hard to conceal. H ie fraternities that flourished at m neteenth-centuiy colleges guarded their secrecy with tenacious zeal; some early ones even built their chapter houses with thick brick walls and no windows.26 This practice earned the middleclass passion for domestic privacy to an extreme, while serving the more obvious function of protecting fraternal secrecy. This ostentatious exclusion enraged the students who were left out, and bitter feuds developed between members and nonmembers or between nval organizations. In 1803, the opponents of secret societies at Dart­ mouth hatched a plot to destroy those exclusive groups. Operating m deep secrecy themselves, the adherents of the antifratemal faction nearly suc­ ceeded in their objective, and set off fierce social and political warfare within the student body. The feelings aroused on both sides were power­ ful. One partisan of secret societies wrote that “Catalioe himself was a saint compared with some of the fellows who plotted this scheme,” and, when the plot failed, the same young man wrote angrily, “It is but right that the person who raises a storm should perish in its ravages.”27 So deep was the antagonism between student groups that college au­ thorities sought to use it for their own purposes. Officials often sup­ ported the hazing of new students as a way to instill loyalty to one’s col­ lege class and to set the classes against each other instead of against the college administration. In fact, some of the earliest football games m the United States were actually contests in which the freshman and sopho­ more classes of a college made two opposing lines and tried to kick an inflated cows bladder through the members of the rival class to a goal behind them. The real purpose was not so much to win the game as to inflict violence on the other class, creating group solidarity in the process.28 Even while male youth organizations gloried in a rough, competitive, playful spirit that harked back to the ethos of boy culture, their collective activities still carried striking reminders of deep familial needs. We have seen that this yearning for family life showed through in the common nurture of banquets and impromptu feasts, and also in the way that se-

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cret fraternities and societies carried domestic privacy to a drastic ex­ treme. It also appeared—subtly and unexpectedly—in the theatricals that were staged by so many young m ens societies. These productions varied widely in seriousness and sophistication, but they shared at least one common feature: male youths played all the female roles.29 At one level, this gender-blurnng reflected mere necessity—there were no women in young mens organizations to take the female parts. And putting teenage boys in womens roles also reflected a time-honored tradition m the theater. There was more going on here than the simple workings of necessity or tradition, however. The thing that some veter­ ans of these productions recalled most vividly in later years was the spec­ tacle of young men pretending to be women. Indeed, these theatrical amateurs wrote plays which required them to act as females.30Thus, at a time in life when young men were living without maternal nurture and had to supply each other with some form of substitute, they chose to play-act together as women and men. At a point m the life cycle when males were most separate from female company, they chose to invent it together playfully; and at a moment in their emotional lives when they were coping nervously with romantic intimacy, they used the stage to practice on each other. Yet the male theatricals were poking fun at the female role even as they allowed young men to occupy it. In fact, they were mocking the whole sex-role configuration on which the family was based, and so were the other rites and practices of male youth organizations. The banquets which recalled family meals also took place in a rude, jesting atmosphere that mocked the genteel restraint of the middle-class dining room. And while the privacy of the young men s secret societies did copy the obses­ sive seclusion of the middle-class family, it is also true that the thick, windowless walls of the secret societies were a parody (however uncon­ scious) of middle-class domestic isolation. The rituals of male youth culture expressed ambivalence about family life. Boys liked to flaunt their scorn for the domestic world, but the cus­ toms of youth culture conveyed yearning as well as scorn. The life that flourished within young m ens associations blended elements of boy cul­ ture and family life into its own distinctive mixture.

Youth Culture and Manhood Young men did not create their world only from elements of the past. The lives they were leading as clerks, students, or professional appren-

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tices called their attention constantly to the future. Their attempts to enter the men's world of work and achievement reminded them daily of ways in which they needed to change their behavior and reshape their character. Because young men’s organizational culture was largely a product of young men’s own needs and intentions, it nounshed many of the skills and attitudes that were needed for worldly success. Thus, even as male youth culture helped young men to integrate valued customs and habits from childhood into adult life, it also aided the same young men in overcoming long-set patterns of behavior that could hinder their quest for manly achievement.31 Many male youth organizations helped young men prepare for the ngors of manhood by providing an education. Most youths who were bound for middle-class occupations had limited classroom experience (several winters m a small schoolhouse, maybe a year or two at an acad­ emy) and needed to improve at essential skills like reading, writing, speaking, and dissecting an argument. Even when urban schools began to offer a more coherent program in the second half of the nineteenth century, diere were still a great many youths from rural areas who lacked a decent education and not a few from the cities who needed to brush up on basic skills required for middle-class work. Thus, young men’s societies served, in the words of one scholar, as “a substitute for college.” They had their own libraries. They sponsored de­ bates and offered coundess opportunities for public speaking of other sorts, from the presentation of literary papers to the delivery of political speeches to the reading of poems written by the members themselves. The young men’s associations also sponsored lecture senes. Some were a motley assortment of traveling speakers, but others were courses of lec­ tures given by an expert on a particular topic; these amounted virtually to college courses. Thus, the young men who joined societies and associ­ ations were often exposed to broad bodies of knowledge and gamed ex­ tensive practice m the skills of writing, speaking, and logical analysis. While the young men’s organizations offered little formal instruction m these skills, their members taught them to each other through unsparing criticism. In this way, a great many male youths received an invaluable equivalent to a college education through their membership m societies and associations.32 Some of these organizations offered a better education than many col­ leges did. Especially m the antebellum era, college courses demanded lit­ tle of a student’s time or intellect, so students created literaiy societies to supplement their education. These societies were like colleges in their own right; they taught their own curricula, purchased their own libraries,

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established their own rules of conduct, and even granted their own diplomas. Usually a college had two such societies, which vied for mem­ bers and competed in debates on the great issues of the day. These or­ ganizations set such a tone of intellectual concern that even the college fraternities that emerged in the early nineteenth century—groups that were far more concerned with sociability than the literary societies were—featured the reading of a paper as a regular part of their meet­ ings. On and off campus, the young men’s associations and literary soci­ eties were remarkably similar in that they enabled young men to edu­ cate each other outside of a formal learning system that was ineffec­ tual.33 The young men’s societies promoted other useful skills, too. To the upwardly mobile youth in their membership, these organizations offered an education in the social graces. Even the young men from middleclass backgrounds were encouraged to shake off a bit of their boyish crudeness and practice good manners. Moreover, the male youth organi­ zations provided a setting where members could cultivate the fine art of business friendship. The great Boston publisher James T. Fields learned to blend friendship with instrumental skills while he was a member of a young men’s society, the Boston Mercantile Library Association. Fields used his influence, his charm, and his good editorial judgment to pro­ mote the literary ambitions of his friends within the association, just as he would use those traits to become the preeminent American publisher of the mid-nineteenth century.34 Male youth organizations further prepared their members for the world of manhood by strengthening competitive habits learned in boy­ hood. In urban and small-town settings and on college campuses, these organizations vied for prestige, public attention, and new members. Young men competed with each other for membership in these societies and fraternities.35 Nowhere was competition more evident than in that quintessential young men’s activity, the debate. Self-improvement soci­ eties made debating an integral part of their activities, setting friend against friend in verbal combat. The ubiquitous custom of the formal debate did more than sustain the competitive habits of boy culture, though. It also transformed con­ tentious energies into forms that would be more useful in the middleclass world of work. The debating expenence forced young men to think on their feet, to present a convincing argument, and to duel with words and ideas rather than fists and rocks. Debating replaced the physical skills and primal aggression of boyhood with the abstract skills and the verbal aggression that were needed for middle-class work. Still, the de-

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bate experience—even as it transformed the talents and tendencies of boyhood—left competitive impulses intact, and even nurtured them. Forensic combat engaged the emotions of young men as fully as physical contests commanded the feelings of boys. Charles Van Hise, a famous geologist and educator, had a place on the debating team of his literary society while he was a student at the University of Wisconsin. After his team won a major victory over a rival society, Van Hise described his “wild elation”: “How the body tingles at such times! Eveiy muscle is set like a whipcord. The whole body is in action.”36 The members of Van H ises society were enthusiastic about this victoiy, too, because all of them took an active role in the constant round of organized debates and informal arguments at the society.37 These en­ counters sharpened the skills of those involved and eventually produced an agreement about which debaters could best represent the whole group. The process of debate and discussion m young men’s societies honed the competitive instincts of the participants even as it nurtured their analytical skills. The endless process of competitive evaluation that was involved in these verbal clashes represented another refinement of a habit bred by boy culture. Boys constantly evaluated one another on the basis of physi­ cal skills. After they grew to be young men, they judged their peers by verbal and intellectual standards instead of physical ones. In other words, young men were learning to weigh and rank the abilities of their fellows just as they would in the world of middle-class work. Henry Dwight Sedgwick, a lawyer and scholar, described explicitly the way his peer-rankings changed as he grew. As a boy and as a college student, he rated others according to physical prowess. During his teens, Sedgwick also began to measure his peers on the basis of their scholastic abilities. By his early twenties, when he had reached law school, his standard of physical prowess had dropped away altogether. Sedgwick now ranked the young men around him on “the scale of success”—first as students of the law and later as lawyers.38 Male youth culture also educated its members in the exercise of power. H ere again, young men were building on lessons they had learned within their boys’ world. Boys exercised power in many ways, from leading gangs to bullymg other boys. But these informal, unstruc­ tured experiences were not the subject of much conscious attention in boyhood. By contrast, the exercise of power within male youth culture was a focus of vigilant attention, and it happened within formal settings. After all, the young men’s societies were founded and run by the mem­ bers themselves; when one of these societies sustained itself or ex-

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panded, it did so through the efforts of the young men who ran it. These societies began informally, with a group of friends coming to­ gether for sociability and self-improvement. The founders set up rules and constitutions, often before the group had ever met. A case in point is the club Rutherford B. Hayes and his friends started at Kenyon Col­ lege to promote “firm and enduring friendship among its members.” Within a few weeks of the initial idea, members were selected; several meetings were held; a name, a motto, and a badge were chosen; meeting formats were adopted; and “several regulations” were established “to se­ cure the prosperity and permanency of the club.”39 While this club did not survive the graduation of its members, other young m ens societies lasted for decades with little but financial assis­ tance from older men. The youthful members of these organizations vied with each other for the powers of office. Those who succeeded m gaining power earned out the rules of their organizations and helped to put new ones in place. They oversaw the scheduling of such group activ­ ities as lectures, debates, and banquets; they took charge of upkeep and improvement in libraries, club rooms, and buildings; and they played an active role m recruiting new members and maintaining the organiza­ tion’s financial health. Nor was the exercise of power limited to the elected officers. Key decisions were often hammered out in committees or at meetings of all members. Thus, young men learned to maintain and extend institutions, to make and administer policy, and to persuade and campaign in pursuit of their own goals. As they nurtured their insti­ tutions, male youths learned lessons that would prove valuable m the world of middle-class work that lay ahead.40 In sum, the self-improvement societies that formed the core of male youth culture played a vital role in bringing their members through the transition from boyhood into the world of men. Young men set aside the physical skills they had relied on in boyhood and cultivated the abstract skills they would need to meet a mans duties. The assertive impulses and competitive drives of boy culture were not so much forsaken as they were redirected—furnished with new channels to follow and new goals to reach.

Youth Culture and the Struggle for Impulse Control The playful, hedonistic, libidinal quality of the boys’ world contrasted sharply with the sober sense of duty attached to middle-class manhood, and as boys approached manhood their quest for gratification and ex-

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citement sought new objects. Many found pleasure in strong dnnk, and some discovered a new form of adventure in gambling. Then, there was the most alluring—and most strictly forbidden—indulgence of all: sex. In nineteenth-century America, boys reached puberty in their midteens, and from then on, they fought a long battle with sexual temptation which extended not only to relations with others but to masturbation as well.41 The youthful impulse to seek forbidden pleasures threatened the peace and good order of society in fundamental ways. For instance, the boyish love of brawling and fighting combined with the heedless use of liquor to produce frequent violence between college students and boys from local towns. Furtherm ore, sexual desire was seen as an especially powerful force in a young man, distracting him from his work, blinding him to his future duties as a breadwinner, and leading him even to dis­ ease and insanity. People believed, in other words, that a young man who surrendered to sexual desire also gave up his ability to carry out the man's role.42Thus, the pursuit of pleasure among youthful males seemed a threat to the basic integrity of society. O f course, the male quest for thrills did not begin with the approach of manhood. Boyhood's excitements, however, were a social nuisance, not a social threat. The hedonistic impulses of boyhood could be held in bounds—if not always curbed entirely—by the vigilance of family and community. In times past those traditional institutions had served to limit young men’s quest for excitement, too; but in the nineteenth cen­ tury, the young men who were forming the middle class of their genera­ tion often lived far from the vigilant gaze of a family and of a community that knew them.43 How, then, could these young men be controlled? And, more importantly, how could they be confirmed m their habits of self-control? Certain youth organizations played an active role in encouraging tighter self-restraint. Some, such as the ubiquitous temperance societies of the antebellum era, were aimed directly at the control of impulse. Many of the more broadly focused self-improvement societies also took a direct role in discouraging the pursuit of “mere pleasure.” Simply by the fact that they provided engaging alternatives to vice, the selfimprovement societies did much to distract young men from their own wayward impulses. By midcentury, older men were founding male youth societies whose pnm aiy purpose was to help suppress vice and promote self-control among those just entering manhood. The YMCA was the most famous and successful organization of this sort, and it emerged as a

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central part of male youth culture in the second half of the nineteenth century.44 Yet, in spite of all these institutional forces, young men s societies did not inculcate self-control to the same degree that they nurtured young men s worldly ambition or developed the skills needed for middle-class work. After all, most young mens societies were aimed at external achievement more than internal restraint. Given their common experi­ ence in boyhood, young men who gathered together were bound to be more receptive to lessons in self-assertion than self-control. There were other social forces arrayed in the battle for the youthful mastery of desire. Preachers and ministers of all sorts waged a holy war to conquer hedonism among youth who came to the city. The evangelists of the antebellum era addressed young clerks whenever they sought to fan the flames of revival in Northern cities. Throughout the century, there were ministers whose mission was preaching to the male youth seeking a place m the urban middle class. Much of the prescriptive liter­ ature on nineteenth-century manhood consists of printed sermons deliv­ ered to young men in the crusade for their souls (and their libidos). These books of sermons appeared less often during the second half of the century, when they were replaced by a moralistic secular literature (usually scientific or medical) that echoed most of the themes of impulse control that had dominated the preaching of earlier generations. There is no way to measure the effect that these books and speeches had on young men, but we do know that many of the preachers involved—in­ cluding the young Heniy Ward Beecher and Hartford’s Joel Hawes— drew large crowds of male youth to their churches.45 We also know that several books of exhortation to young men went through numerous edi­ tions and printings. Even the most successful advisers in virtue conceded that they were not the primary architects of male self-restraint. Rather, it was the moth­ ers of these young men who laid the foundations of conscience on which the preachers of impulse control sought to build. As we have seen, many young males possessed active powers of self-control by the time they confronted the temptations which came with puberty and indepen­ dence. These powers, nurtured in boyhood homes and augmented by the institutional forces that arrayed themselves during young manhood, helped middle-class men keep a far tighter rein on their urges for plea­ sure and excitement than they had kept as boys.46 Still, while men held in check many surging desires and perhaps even drove some of them entirely out of consciousness, the task of self-control

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was not an easy one. Proof of this comes from the lives of middle-class men. There were alcoholics and gamblers and philandering husbands. Probably more common were men who sometimes—though not con­ stantly—gave in to one form of temptation or another. The mastery of impulse was a lifelong struggle, not a dramatic skirmish that was won or lost forever m youth. Nonetheless, youth was perceived as a turning point in life, a moment of change in a young man’s control of inner needs and outward behavior. Male youth culture did much to turn big boys into young men. This dis­ tinctive culture nurtured good work habits and taught appropriate forms of self-assertion. It provided valuable experience in the uses of power, il­ luminated the delicate art o f competing and cooperating with the same group of people, and offered some limited aid m impulse control, while fostering the expression of many of those same impulses. Male youth culture—with young men’s societies at its vital core—supported its members during a time of transition by mixing elements of a familiar past with preparation for a demanding future.

Chapter 4

YOUTH AND M ALE I N T I M A C Y

W

T THEN Daniel Webster was eighteen years old, he called his best friend “the partner of my joys, griefs, and affections, the only participa­ tor of my most secret thoughts.”1 Four years later, m 1804, young Daniel asked another close friend: “What is this world worth without the enjoy­ ment of friendship, and the cultivation of the social feelings of the heart?” He answered his own question later m the same letter when he told his friend: “My heart is now so full of matters and things impatient to be whispered into the ear of a trusty fnend, that I think I could pour them into yours till it ran over.”2 Webster’s statements present a veiy different concept of friendship from the one that was embedded in boy culture. To boys, friendship meant a stalwart alliance and a boon companionship. It was a bond ce­ mented by loyalty and invigorated by shared enjoyment. As boys m their midteens began to shape their own lives, their notions of friendship changed. This contrasting idea of friendship was based on intimacy, on a sharing of thought and emotion. A fnend was now a partner in senti­ ment as well as action. While bovs had had little interest m “the social feelings of the heart,” young men like Daniel Webster cultivated those same emotions. The gentle (even “feminine”) emotions of the heart re­ placed the rough aggressions of boyhood. Young men might even ex­ press their fondness for each other in affectionate physical gestures. All together, these friendships inverted familiar patterns of male behavior— they were intimate attachments that verged on romance. In the history of white, Northern culture, these romantic bonds be-

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tween men were unusual. Certain youths from elite families of the eigh­ teenth centuiy did indulge in loving, intimate friendships with each other. We know, for example, that the coips of young aides that sur­ rounded General Washington in the Revolution exchanged letters of great affection. But this kind of relation between men did not spread to other classes or become a common feature of the social landscape until the turn of the nineteenth century.3 These romantic friendships of male youth closely resembled the in­ tense bonds between women first portrayed by Carroll Smith-Rosenberg in her landmark article, “The Female World of Love and Ritual.”4 Yet the intimate ties between young men of the nineteenth centuiy dif­ fered from those described by Smith-Rosenberg m at least one funda­ mental way. Among males, romantic friendship was largely a product of a distinct phase in the life cycle—youth.

Male Friendship in Youth The intimate, romantic bonds of male youth were intense offshoots of less remarkable friendship patterns. To start with, young men in their late teens and twenties filled their letters and diaries with the mention of a great many casual associates. These fellows—colleagues at work, occu­ pants of the same boardinghouse, classmates at a college or academy— passed through young men’s fives in a procession marked by good fel­ lowship and little attachment.5 Such casual friendships flourished in young men’s societies where group activities and a feeling of cama­ raderie drew together individuals who had no deeper affinity.6 There were a few males studied here who found their friendships only in casual companionship. Edward Jarvis, a man who formed no close male bonds in his youth, eventually found his medical career blocked by the same rigid and harshly judgmental qualities that had prevented him from making friends.7 Charles Milton Baldwin, a sculptor and stonecutter from upstate New York, did not develop close friendships as a young man, since his relationships with the opposite sex preoccupied him com­ pletely. In fact, this reliance on intimacy with women was a common theme among the young men who were not close to others of their own sex.8 Still, theirs were the unusual cases. Most young men enjoyed at least one strong fnendship. These warm attachments were built on affinities of many kinds—similar dispositions, common tastes, shared interests, a knack for mutual understanding. Close friendship began with good com-

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pamonship but it went on into deeper realms of feeling and sharing. The relationship between Morton Bailey and James Cattell provides a good illustration of a close attachment between two young men. They m et as classmates at Lafayette College m the 1870s and maintained a devoted friendship after graduation, while Bailey practiced law in Den­ ver and Cattell studied psychology in Germany. At this phase in life, the discussion of careers formed a vital part of close friendships, and a good portion of the correspondence between Bailey and Cattell focused on hopes and fears about their prospects for success. Was Morton too ambi­ tious? Was Jim not ambitious enough? Was Denver a good place to prac­ tice law? How could Jim support himself through long years of graduate training? But Morton and Jim did more than ponder these questions and give advice. They offered (and sought) emotional support that was warm, reliable, and reassuring. The two friends shared congratulations in times of tnum ph and consolation in times of failure, and reminded each other of their personal strengths.9 Bailey and Cattell shared comfort and support so freely because of the warmth and trust between them. Bailey wrote of their openness: “I think you have seen fit to honor m e . . . with your confidence—therefore [there is] no good reason .. why I should not be wholly frank with you, as well concerning yourself as myself.” Such candid talk opened up the possibility of stinging criticism, but their frankness was rooted in a pow­ erful sense of loyalty and appreciation. As Morton admitted on one occa­ sion, “It is superfluous for me to assert to you . . . my strong and long continued friendship. Strangely unlike yet . . . strongly drawn toward each other—You little know, Jim, what genuine pleasure and comfort I get from all your letters.”10 From time to time, a fond male friendship in youth blossomed into something more intimate and intense. Warmth turned into tender at­ tachment, and closeness became romance. Although there is no statisti­ cal evidence to tell us precisely how many young middle-class men expe­ rienced romantic friendship, we do know that these ardent relationships were common in the nineteenth century. Their expressions can be found readily m the diaries and personal correspondence of the era, and there is no evidence to suggest that this form of relationship was not socially acceptable among middle-class male youth. One kind of romantic male bond was exemplified in the intense con­ nection between Daniel Webster and James Hervey Bingham. Webster and Bingham became close friends at Dartmouth, and the warmth of their friendship continued past graduation. While they studied law, taught school, and served as law clerks, the two offered each other an in-

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timacy that might otherwise have been missing from their small-town bachelors lives. Of course* their relationship encompassed many of the same qualities as a close, but less intimate, friendship. They shared dreams and doubts about their careers, and they offered each other hon­ est expressiveness and emotional support.11 There were several dimensions of the friendship between Webster and Bingham, however, that gave it an intimate, even romantic tone. First was the way they addressed each other. They sometimes opened their letters with greetings like “Lovely Boy” or “Dearly Beloved,” and Webster on occasion signed his letters with affectionate phrases such as, “I am, dear Hervey, your Darnel Webster,” and “Accept all the tender­ ness I have, D. Webster.” In between the salutation and the closing, Webster used many other terms of endearment: “my Hervey,” “my dear­ est J. H. B.,” “dear Hervey.”12 The romantic tone extended beyond nicknames and salutations to the way these young men described their feelings for each other. While they were together in college, Daniel described his “dear Hervey” as “the only friend of my heart, the partner of my joys, griefs, and affections, the only participator of my most secret thoughts.” After graduating, young Webster wrote to Bingham: “I knew not how closely our feelings were interwoven; had no idea how hard it would be to live apart, when the hope of living together again no longer existed.”13 When they were together, they talked intimately of daily events, friends, career plans, and college life. But the topic which Daniel and Hervey discussed with the greatest fervor—and which required the most intimate trust—was the subject of women. Like other males in their late teens and early twenties, they were obsessed with the topic. Dreams, fears, and puzzlements about romance held a tight gnp on their attention. Like many of their peers, W ebster and Bingham needed a special fnend with whom they could discuss such vexing, delicate mat­ ters.14 So they wrote to each other constantly about “the Misses.” They exchanged advice, rhapsodized about female beauty, cursed feminine wiles, and consoled one another when romantic hopes were dashed. When a new young woman caught the fancy of one or the other, Web­ ster and Bingham carried on like the future lawyers they were, sifting the fragmentary evidence of passing words, stolen glances, and idle gos­ sip for clues to feminine intentions. Underneath it all lay a childlike anxi­ ety that was deeply embarrassing to a young man, so embarrassing that he could reveal it only to intimate friends. Here is W ebster fussing and fretting to Bingham over the latest object of his affections: “I dared not go to see Fanny; though I would not for anything have her know that I

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passed so near her. Do you ever hear from her? How is she? Does she mention my name in her letters to you?”15 While Dan pursued his dream of intimacy with a woman, his bond with Bingham came in many respects to resemble a marriage. The two young men shared the joys and sorrows of life, offered each other emo­ tional support, revealed their deepest secrets, and even spoke to one an­ other in terms of endearment. At a time of great discouragement in his quest for a wife, Webster offered Bingham a vision of their common fu­ ture that amounted to a marriage proposal.16 “I don’t see how I can live any longer,” wrote Webster, “without having a friend near me, I mean a male fnend, just such a fnend as one J. H. B.” And so he announced— only half-jokingly—that he would move in with Bingham: “Yes, James, I must come; we will yoke together again; your little bed is just wide enough; we will practise at the same bar, and be as friendly a pair of sin­ gle fellows as ever cracked a nut.” The picture that Daniel painted of their life together was modest but idyllic: We perhaps shall never be rich; no matter we can supply our own per­ sonal necessities. By the time we are thirty, we will put on the dress of old bachelors, a mourning suit, and having sown all our wild oats, with a round hat and a hickory staff we will march on to the end of life, whistling as merry as robins.17 Dan was not quite offering Hervey a romantic love nest or a vinecovered cottage, but it was a cozy, intimate image of the two men yoked together happily for life, sharing Binghams “little bed.” If Webster’s words lacked romance, they surely described the loving familiarity of a happily marned couple.18 In his more realistic moments, Webster knew that he would marry. Yet it stands as a tribute to the power of his tie with Bingham that he saw their friendship as occupying the same ground as marriage—to the point where the two seemed to be mutually exclusive. In one letter where Daniel told Hervey of his “exultation” that their “early congenial attach­ ments will never be sundered,” he promised that his friend would “con­ tinue to occupy the parlor of my affections, till Madam comes! Madam, you know, must have the parlor, but even then you shall not be cast off into the kitchen.” “Depend on it,” Webster continued, “if Madam treats you, or anybody else who is an older propnetor than herself, with prank­ ish airs, we will soon away with her into Lob’s pound.”19 Still, for all the similarities between a marriage and the youthful male intimacy of W ebster and Bingham, there was one irreducible difference.

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Only within marriage was sexual activity allowed. There is no evidence to indicate that Dan and Hervey ever developed a physical relationship, but there were other intimate relationships between young men which did involve touching, kissing, and caressing. These relationships had the same emotional textures and qualities as many other intimate male friendships, but their physical expressiveness gave them an extra blush of romance. The friendship between James Blake and Wyck Vanderhoef was cer­ tainly one that had a romantic aura. These two young men, both engi­ neers, met in 1848 when they were m their twenties. Their friendship did not blossom immediately, but when it did, Blake wrote of the event as if he had just engaged to be married. In his diary, he exulted: “1 have found a friend! one upon whom I can repose every trust, and when in trouble and affliction can seek relief.” Blake’s account of events between himself and Vanderhoef sounds more like the choice of a wife than the start of a friendship: “After an acquaintance of nearly three years I have chosen [Wyck] as my friend, and he has reciprocated; May he live long and happy, and may the tie of pure friendship which has been formed between us, never be severed, but by the hand of death.” When James described the place of this bond in his life, he used the rhetoric of nm eteenth-centuiy marriage and domesticity: “Long have I desired a fnend, one whom I could trust myself with upon this journey of life.” It was, wrote James, “a beautiful thing” to “retire from the cold selfish arms of the world, and receive the pure embrace of friendship.”20 The marital overtonès of James and Wyck’s relationship were not con­ fined to words and imagery, but extended as well to their actions. Like other devoted young friends of the time, they made a pact of lasting friendship. The arrangement was unusual, though, in that it also in­ cluded Wyck’s fiancée, Maiy, with whom James, too, enjoyed a close re­ lationship. The three, who were already “bound together in friendship” and “cemented by affection,” now exchanged “a kiss of purity” as a pledge “ever to love, ever to cherish and assist each other.” When the “sacred hour” of their pledge had passed, James felt certain "of that con­ fiding love, which will never fade.”21 O f all the similarities to marriage in the Blake-Vanderhoef relation­ ship, the most striking to. the twentieth-century eye is their physical af­ fection. For these two young men, “the embrace of friendship” was not just a figure of speech. As James noted without comment on one occa­ sion, “We retired early and in each other’s arms did friendship sink peacefully to sleep.”22 In other words, the two friends not only shared a bed, but they shared embraces there as well. Apparently, this was a com-

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mon occurrence for them, and James noted their nocturnal embraces in his diary without a hint of apology. The most revealing of these diary en­ tries came just after Wyck and James had parted company, and James was describing their last night together: We retired early, but long was the time before our eyes were closed in slumber, for this was the last night we shall be together for the present, and our hearts were full of that true friendship which could not find ut­ terance by words, we laid our heads upon each other’s bosom and wept, it may be unmanly to weep, but I care not, the spirit was touched.23 This statement is noteworthy for its description of intimate affection be­ tween men, but it is even more noteworthy for what it reveals about the limits of acceptable male behavior. James closes his comments with an apology for his unmanly conduct, but his apology is for weeping, not for laying his head on the bosom of his intimate male friend in bed. Appar­ ently, crying violated the norms of manliness more than the exchange of physical affection with another man.24 Thus, the range of behavior allowed in friendship did not end with the intimate bonds of youths like Webster and Bingham, but extended further to include romantic and physically affectionate relationships like that of Blake and Vanderhoef. The blush of romance was deeper still in the affairs of Albert Dodd, a Connecticut college student. Writing m his journal in the late 1830s, Albert described his intimate relationships with two other young men, John Heath and Anthony Halsey. To John, Albert never confessed his affectionate feelings. On the surface, the relation­ ship was simply a close friendship, and Albert was left to sort out his un­ spoken feelings m his journal. There, he wrote, “I love you, indeed I love you” to John, but he kept these words to himself.25 In his later romance with Anthony Halsey, Dodd shed his caution. While he poured out his feelings for Anthony in his journal (“adored An­ thony,” “my most beloved of all,” “how completely I loved him, how I doated on him!”), he was also willing to bare his soul to his friend in long hours of intimate talk. More than that, Albert and Anthony had a physi­ cal relationship. “Often too [Anthony] shared my pillow—or I his,” Dodd wrote, “and then how sweet to sleep with him, to hold his beloved form in my embrace, to have his arms about my neck, to im pnnt upon his face sweet kisses!” This description differs from James Blake’s ac­ counts of his nights with Wyck Vanderhoef in its intimacy, and in its erotic tinge. Not only does Dodd kiss Halsey as they embrace in bed (Blake mentions no such erotic play), but there is an undertone of pas-

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sion when Dodd mentions his friend's “beloved form” and remembers the kisses, and the nights, as “sweet” ones. All these subtle differences take additional erotic force from Dodd s confession that he found Halsey “so handsome” a confession that has no equivalent m Blake’s journal en­ tries about Vanderhoef. The relationships described in the journals of Blake and Dodd were quite similar, but Dodd’s affair with Anthony Halsey seemed to go one significant—and passionate—step beyond that of Vanderhoef and Blake. Yet, as significant as this step appears to the twentieth-century observer, it did not take Dodd and Halsey across any perilous social boundanes. Albert Dodd described his erotic encounters without self-censure.26 Another striking feature of Dodd’s romantic life was that it mixed male and female love objects as if that were the most natural habit m the world. His rapturous musings about John Heath mingled freely with love poems to a woman named Julia, and the journal entries which glowed with Dodd’s passion, for Anthony Halsey filled die same volumes that expressed his yearning for his beloved Elizabeth. The mixtures, at times, became even more complex. “All I know,” he wrote before meet­ ing Elizabeth, “is that there are three persons m this world whom I have loved, and those are, Julia, John, and Anthony. Dear, beloved tno.”27 Nor was Dodd alone m blending the love of men with the love of women. James Blake, after all, enjoyed an intense relationship with Wyck Vanderhoefs fiancée, Mary. He exchanged fifteen- and twentypage letters with her, and the two sometimes talked alone for hours. At this transitional stage in life, the distinction between love objects—and between their genders—sometimes faded to invisibility. Just as the sepa­ rate spheres were not hermetically sealed but rather leaked their con­ tents one into the other, so, too, a young man’s feelings for the dearest members of each sex could sometimes blend and merge.

Channels of Intimate Affection Albert Dodd and James Blake shifted easily between their love for men and their love for women. They saw nothing strange in their physical re­ lationships with close male friends, and they felt no sense of tension be­ tween their intimate lives and the positions of social respectability which they pursued. Yet, to the twentieth-centuiy eye, the words and deeds of these men do appear strange. How can we grasp their undisguised affec­ tion for other males and their lack of anxiety about physical romance with their own sex?

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People of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have understood same-sex romance in very different ways. To appreciate the difference, we must start with a statement by historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, who wrote that loving ties between women—even ties with erotic over­ tones—were “socially acceptable” in the 1800s. Furthermore, these rela­ tions were considered "fully compatible” with heterosexual bonds.28 Smith-Rosenbergs observations are as true for men of the nineteenth century as for women. In fact, the romantic friendships between men may have received stronger cultural support than the bonds between fe­ males. The historical models which the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie used to understand same-sex intimacy were predominantly relationships be­ tween men. Following the habit of their era, these Victorians turned to classical antiquity, citing the devoted friendship of Damon and Pythias, and quoting the writings of Aristotle and Cicero, who praised pure, spiri­ tual relationships between equal men.29 Advocates of homosocial love also invoked biblical models such as David and Jonathan, who declared that their love was “wonderful, passing the love of women.” Devout Protestants patterned their friendships after the ties that bound early Christian communities, where a kiss or clasped hands expressed intense religious feeling, and words of love between members of the same sex echoed the love they shared for God.30 These historical models provided sanction especially for romantic friendship between men, but they ex­ tended support to intimacy between women as well. Even the most con­ servative and respectable families accepted loving ties between mem­ bers of the same sex. There was another dimension of cultural support for these relation­ ships. The nineteenth-century bourgeoisie had an understanding of ho­ moerotic contact that was very different from that of the late twentieth century. Our forebears did not make clear distinctions between what was homosexual and what was not; in fact, there was no such term during most of the 1800s. When nineteenth-century Americans referred to an act that we would now term homosexual, they often called it “the crime that cannot be named.” The lack of a word for homosexuality is closely tied to the fact that there was no concept of it, no model for sexuality other than heterosexuality. When middle-class Northerners wrote about homosexual acts, they often did not treat them separately from other forms of carnality, such as bestiality, prostitution, or heterosexual bug­ gery. Here again, word usage is revealing. The nineteenth-century term for the legal crime of homosexual intercourse was sodomy, but that term could also be used to indicate copulation with an animal, or “unnatural”

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(oral or anal) intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. It is further significant that sodomy and “crime without a name”—the two imprecise labels for homosexual behavior—referred to acts and not to types of per­ sons, social identities, or relationships. Indeed, the one other term which loosely referred to homosexuality was the phrase “unnatural act,” which again created the concept of a vaguely defined sexual behavior, not of a personal or a social identity. The phrase “unnatural act” is useful in one other way for our under­ standing of nineteenth-century American concepts of homosexuality, for the word unnatural implies that the source of the act is inhuman. The desire for erotic play with a member of one’s own sex, then, came not from a man’s (or a woman’s) “natural” passions but from some evil source that was external to human nature. In other words, a man who kissed or embraced an intim ate male friend in bed did not worry about homosexual impulses because he did not assume that he had them. In the Victorian language of touch, a kiss or an embrace was a pure gesture of deep affection at least as much as it was an act of sexual expression. The behavior of James Blake and Albert Dodd was understood outside of the strictly sexual context that we would apply to it in the late twenti­ eth century. Those men were in many ways freer to express their affec­ tionate feelings than they would be in the twentieth century.31 The physical dimension of romantic friendship cannot be understood solely in terms of sexual boundary definition, however. There were other common experiences that helped to shape patterns of physical affection between friends of the same sex. For instance, m neteenth-centuiy boys expressed their feelings for each other in physical ways much more than verbal ones. As we have noted, fistfights and wrestling matches served as disguised channels of affection between boys. Although they rarely ex­ changed warm embraces with friends, boys knew the feeling of a friend’s body at close range in moments of high emotion. There were other aspects of daily life in the nineteenth century which provided a context for the physical expressiveness of romantic friend­ ship. One has to do with the meanings attached to the experience of two males (or two females) sharing a bed. In our own time, the phrase “sleeping together” has become a euphemism for sexual intimacy, but in the nineteenth century that phrase still carried its literal meaning. Many middle-class men grew up in large families where children, of necessity, shared a bed.32 Although the spread of affluence and of modem notions of privacy made the rule of single beds for single persons more common in the late m neteenth century, most middle-class men of the 1800s shared a bed with a brother regularly during childhood. This made the

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experience of sleeping with another man mundane. It also made the feeling of another male body against ones own quite ordinary—there was no reason for that feeling to cause the tension it can cause in the twentieth century. In an era before central heating, the body warmth of a brother was probably a source of physical pleasure, too. And if the brother was also a beloved friend, the experience could provide emo­ tional satisfaction. William Whittlesey and his brother Elisha realized this when William left their Ohio home in 1838. Elisha wrote to him: “You and I was always together.. . . I never knew what it was before to be separated from a dear Brother.” He added significantly: “I miss you the most when I go to bed.”33 Of course, young men like William Whittlesey did leave home, and when they did, the custom of bedmates continued. Students at colleges and academies often slept together, and impecunious clerks and profes­ sional apprentices did the same. For these young men as for brothers at home, the experience of sleeping together was a familiar one that some­ times developed intimate overtones. In 1839, an Illinois storekeeper named Joshua Speed added a few dollars to his meager income by agreeing to share his room and his bed with a man he had never met be­ fore—a bachelor lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. This transaction was a common one, but their business arrangement soon blossomed into the closest friendship of a lifetime for the two men.34 It was an ordinary experience, then, for men to sleep together. Affec­ tion was certainly not a requirement of this simple arrangement, but af­ fection often did come with it. Physical contact was an incidental part of sharing a bed, but it happened—and, in the context of a veiy affection­ ate relationship, this contact could express warmth or intimacy. It could even express erotic desire. A wide spectrum of possible meanings—from casual accident to passion—could be felt in the touch of a bedmate. In the absence of a deep cultural anxiety about homosexuality, men did not have to worry about the meaning of those moments of contact. It should be said that the same thing held true for the romantic friendships of nineteenth-century women. They expressed their inti­ macy in words and by touch, in the parlor or in bed. Same-sex romances, whether between females or males, were largely bound by the same cul­ tural rules. However, there were some fundamental differences that sep­ arated the intimate experience of males and females. The most impor­ tant difference lay in the fact that the intimacy in women’s relationships, once formed, would often endure through life, while the intimacy of male friendship was largely limited to the years between boyhood and manhood.35

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The distinctive conditions of youth—vague social expectations, uncer­ tain career plans, restless wandering, the transitional nature of youth as a phase m life—all created the conditions for romantic friendship. Adrift in this period of change and uncertainty, a young male cast about for whatever anchor of security he could find. The people closest to him were likely to be of his own age and sex. The offices, countinghouses, and classrooms where a middle-class youth spent his days were sexsegregated. The boardinghouses and dormitories where he lived away from home were all-male environments, and the literary clubs, debating societies, and fraternities where he spent his spare hours were not open to females. His relationship to his parents was in flux (even if he was liv­ ing at home, he was often eager to prove his independence), and he met adults only at work, usually as his superiors. Present circumstances led a young man naturally to seek other male youths for companionship and security. Moreover, he had long been accustomed to turn to fnends of his sex as allies in the face of challenge. The challenge a young man now faced was different from the battles of boyhood, however, and the needs he felt were deeper than those met by boy-culture friendship. When a young man turned to a male friend, he often needed much more than a boyish ally and comrade. Instead, he needed friendship that would fill some of the emotional space so re­ cently vacated by home and family. In providing love, security, and a sense of being special, these intense attachments gave male youths a substitute for the emotional nurture provided most often in boyhood by a mother. A somewhat older bachelor might also provide the sort of worldly counsel that a young man had once received—or wished for— from his father.36 At the same time that the intense attachments between young men harked back to their past, they also carried portents of the future: these intimate relationships offered a rehearsal for marriage. We have already noted many of the similarities between male intimacy and wedlock: the terms of endearment, the pledges of devotion, the sharing of deepest se­ crets, the emotional support, even the exchanges of physical affection in bed. Romantic friendships gave young men a chance to play-act the tri­ als and the possibilities of mamage, to test their feelings about adult in­ timacy in a setting where lifelong commitment was not at stake. In a time when divorce was not an acceptable option, young men felt under­ standably insecure about what lay ahead in marriage—especially when one thinks of the suppression of tenderness that they experienced m boy culture. Intimate friendship offered them a chance for rehearsal. More than that, it was a rehearsal with a member of the more familiar and less

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intimidating sex. The intimate attachments of male youth served as a testing ground for manhood even as they offered a reprise of boyhood.

“A Fondness I . . . Sometimes Think Almost Childish’* Even as young men were pursuing friendship eagerly, they believed that intimate male attachment was a passing fancy; they were conscious of the fact that these relationships belonged to an era in their lives which would not last. The romantic friendships we have studied offer testi­ mony to the self-conscious segmenting of life and of personal attach­ ment. When Daniel Webster proposed to Hervey Bingham that they should live together forever, he was expressing a strong and genuine wish, but he knew that the wish would not come true. Webster, after all, was obsessed with the pursuit of marriage. He even wrote candidly to Bingham about the limits of their intimate relationship. As he reflected on the pleasure of their confidential talks, he told his fnend that they “converse[d] with a fondness I always approve, though sometimes think almost childish.”37 To Webster, then, the warmest, most confiding mo­ ments of his friendships were worthy of a child but not a man. What was it that made the intimate friendships of youth seem childish even to their participants? By using the word childish, a young man con­ trasted the qualities of his own intense attachments to the qualities of manhood. He knew that the tenderness, the dependence, and the ex­ pressiveness that these relationships evoked m him were qualities at odds with the independence and emotional austerity expected of a grown man. To Daniel Webster, for instance, it was the “fondness” of his conversations with Bingham that made them seem “childish.” Further­ more, there was a quality of play in these relationships, something both passionate and whimsical which set them apart from manhood with its serious, determined tone. A man’s life was a life of work, and there was little room in it for heart-to-heart talks late at night. Indeed, young men showed in many ways their knowledge that the intimate friendships of youth were doomed. When Rutherford B. Hayes and his friends formed their Phi Zeta (“Friendship for Life”) fraternity at Kenyon College, they did so in fear that their close bonds would not survive graduation. Their fears were realized in spite of their efforts— the club did not survive, and few of their friendships remained close after college.38 Even when a friendship did survive, there were still other perils that

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threatened its existence. Morton Bailey and James Cattell had a double vision of their attachment. W hen they looked beyond their current inti­ macy and viewed the years of friendship that lay ahead of them, their writing turned cool and formal. They described a future day when they would “extend to each other the hospitalities of [their] own homes"— when they might “exchange social courtesies and spend not a few vaca­ tion times together in pleasant converse.”39 Even though Bailey and Cat­ tell shared their deepest wishes and feelings for the moment, they ex­ pected only “social courtesies” and “pleasant converse” later m life. There were several reasons why close friends assumed that their ties would be broken by manhood, and all of them were related to the task of taking on a mans duties. We noted earlier, for instance, that many young men thought of their intimate friendships as the functional equivalent of marriage, and they expected that wedlock would threaten those male bonds. Their fears proved accurate: of all the intimate friendships de­ scribed here, not a single one maintained its former intensity after mar­ riage. Some of them did not survive at all. A dramatic instance of such a transformation occurred in Abraham Lincoln’s friendship with Joshua Speed. The two were ardently close fnends as well as bedmates for more than three years. Lincoln mid Speed—who both turned thirty during their time together—were living through a period of tentative beginnings in courtship and career. They became so close that when Speed shut down his store and moved away, Lincoln was plunged into the worst depression of his life. As he followed the subsequent triumph of his friend’s courtship, though, Lincoln emerged slowly from his depression. Then, once Speed was mamed, their relationship suddenly lost its significance for Lincoln. His letters to Speed grew distant in tone, and soon they were corresponding only on business matters. There was little anger or bitterness at the demise of the friendship, and once or twice in later years the two men reminisced warmly. Without doubt, however, their intimacy had come to a sharp and sudden halt when Joshua Speed married.40 O ther changes m a young mans life worked to doom his intimate friendships. Chief among these was a strong commitment to a career. Al­ bert Dodd, noted earlier for his passionate attachments to fellow males, underwent a dramatic change during his time at Yale in the late 1830s. After devoting himself to the study of law, he first went west to practice in St. Louis and then in Bloomington, Illinois. During these years, his correspondence grew impersonal and showed no indication of the ro­ mantic passions he had experienced just a few years before. In fact, Al­ bert made self-mastery the dominant theme of a letter he wrote to his

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brother at this time. He argued forcefully that the control of moods, the government of temper, and a determination to look on the bright side of things were crucial traits in the development of character. Judging by the great changes in lus life, young Dodd must have been practicing the self-control he so fervently preached. Then, in 1844, he was accidentally drowned. Although Dodd was only twenty-six years old at the time of his death, he had lived long enough to reshape his own life and tempera­ ment.41 Albert Dodd’s commitment to a career played a central part in the redirection of his passions away from romantic friendship, but that com­ mitment was clearly not the only force at work in the transformation of this young man s life. He had also done something larger in the process of finding a calling: he had gathered and focused his energies and found a use for them within the main currents of his society. He had taken command of his own needs and found a way to connect them with the needs of the social world around him. It appears—to use Erik Erikson’s term—that Dodd achieved a sense of ego identity during the years after college.42 In doing so, he sacrificed some of the passions and personal at­ tachments that had given meaning to his days as a student. The expenence of Daniel Webster shows how a young middle-class man achieved his manhood—and how he gave up other modes of feeling and attachment in the process. The ten years after Daniels graduation from Dartmouth were a time of experiment and uncertainty. These were the years when he sustained and strengthened the intimate ties formed in college with Hervey Bingham. He continued several other friendships with nearly equal zeal. As mentioned earlier, young Webster and his friends engaged in constant exploration of their hopes and fears about marriage and work. Then, gradually, he put together the pieces of his adult life. His hesitation about a career in the law vanished. His beloved father died, leaving him free to practice law wherever he pleased. He began courting a young woman named Grace Fletcher, and, in the process of wooing her, made a confession of faith and became a church member. Finally, in 1808, nearly a full decade after his college gradua­ tion, Webster married Fletcher. As a recent biographer of Webster has written, he “had finally taken the last step” in fitting himself for his life as a mature man. “He had committed himself to a profession, made his peace with his family and his God, and taken the kind of wife he needed. The doubting and inward looking were behind him forever.”43 This transformation—like the one that Albert Dodd experienced— was achieved at a price. For “the doubting and inward looking” that Webster left behind had been the stuff and substance of his intimate at-

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tachment with Bingham. In the absence of a wife, a settled career, or a home of his own, Webster-had latched onto the security of close friend­ ship. The uncertainty of life in a period of transition had added a special strength to these bonds of friendship. Once that uncertainty was gone, tlie soul-searching stopped and the basis for intimacy suddenly grew narrow. Letters to friends (which Webster wrote less frequently now) took on a breezy, unreflective tone. Webster continued throughout his life to have warm and pleasant, if interm ittent, relationships with the fnends of his youdi, but their bonds were never again bonds of intimacy. W ebster’s experience was a common one. Major commitments—mar­ riage, a settled career, a home of one’s own—were die marks of a man’s identity. Once those commitments were made, a male became a man, and the romance and carefree play of boyhood and youth were set aside. There was little room for attachments to other men that were tender, in­ timate, dependent—m short, “childish.” Instead, the identity of a middle-class man was founded on indepen­ dent action, cool detachment, and sober responsibility. Men aimed to make themselves individual actors, differentiated and separate from all others in a middle-class workplace that was open and fluid. Adult male identity—so detached and independent—contrasted with that of adult females, which was built on interdependence and connection. Women were linked by “supportive networks” and by female “rituals which ac­ companied virtually every important event in a woman’s life.”44 O f course, it had been this way from the start for middle-class women m the m neteenth century. Growing up m a domestic world where women set the tone, girls built close, expressive relationships with moth­ ers and sisters, and inherited a network of female fnends and relatives that provided personal support and a foundation for a woman’s identity. As she grew up to be a woman, a girl developed her own network, but it meshed with the network she had inherited; it extended its reach be­ yond marriage, connecting a woman closely to other women and to her past.45 For boys, things were ,different. A male was constantly creating new networks of peers and leaving old ones behind, from the self-made, shifting alliances of boy culture to youthful friendships in the workplace and the young men’s associations. Thus, the romantic friendships of young manhood were not part of a lifelong network of intimate bonds. The closeness of these relationships was distinctive to one phase of the life cycle. Although these intense attachments of male youth did not last into manhood, they did leave a legacy in men’s adult lives and provided a re­ hearsal for the marriage on which nearly every man embarked. More-

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over, while friendships between men lacked the intensity of youthful bonds, they often showed a loyal, enduring fondness which must have owed something to earlier and more intimate ties. The special friend­ ships of youth may also have contributed to the cohesion of social rela­ tionships in the keenly competitive marketplace where middle-class men spent their days. As men struggled to maintain the balance between co­ operation and competition in the workplace, they built on their experi­ ences with the contentious comradeship of boy culture and then added to it the experience m youth of intimacy with another man. By teaching empathy and a sense of appreciation for the interior lives of other men, those youthful relationships helped to provide a readier feeling of trust when men began building bonds with competitors and collaborators. This process suggests a final legacy of the intimate friendships of youth. Many of the social bonds that men developed with their fellows in the marketplace were nurtured in mens clubs, fraternal lodges, political parties, and various formal and informal business associations. Men tied their loyalties to those groups with a passion equal to that of their youth­ ful friendships. These male institutions may, in fact, have offered their members a viable emotional compromise between connection and au­ tonomy men could invest their bonds to the group with the same deep relational needs that they had displayed in youth, yet they did not have to develop a particular relationship that might interfere with their pro­ fessional independence or leave them vulnerable in the harshly competi­ tive world of middle-class work. By absorbing the desire for male attach­ ment and diffusing it over a broad membership, all-male clubs could provide an outlet for deep emotional needs without threatening the indi­ vidual autonomy or the psychological armor that were basic parts of a mans public identity.46 Fnendship did not, m sum, disappear from the lives of mature men, but it never regained the passionate intensity of youth. Male friends— men friends—came to play a different sort of role in each other’s lives.

Chapter 5

THE DEVELOPMENT O F M E N 'S A T T I T U D E S TOW ARD W OM EN

IN 1815, a young man wrote of the woman he loved: “Only to think that I should aspire to possess the love of such an angel.” Little more than two decades later, another bachelor warned a fnend about women: “Beware lest the little d[evi]ls with their laughing, swearing eyes, their passions brows, their damask cheeks bedevil your heart, and lampoon you as they do most men.”1These two descriptions of women were both typical of their time. Young men of the nineteenth centuiy regarded women with deep ambivalence and swung wildly from one extreme to the other in their feelings. W here did these attitudes come from? How did a young man develop his perceptions of the opposite sex? In all but the most unusual families, a boys first expenence of women came from his mother. She was the first person to provide him with love, nurture, and a sense of human relatedness; she was also the first person to frustrate him, control him, and reject him. This, of course, is true in many cultures. But, as we have seen, the relationship of mother and son in the middle-class homes of the 1800s had more distinctive dimensions. The cultural celebration of maternal love increased the chances that the boy would experience it, and may even have exaggerated the longing for female affection m boys who failed to receive it from their mothers. At the same time, the nineteenth-century expectation that a mother would implant morality m her sons inflated the chances that a boy would expe­ rience women as agents of frustration and control. Thus, the boy’s first relationship with a woman established a set of expectations in which

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both love and frustration were firmly embedded. Later experiences built on these early expectations, sometimes adding strength to them and sometimes revising them. New layers of experience were being added even before a boy left home.

Brothers and Sisters In 1835, when Theodore Russell wanted to reveal his deepest thoughts about his past and his future, he confided in his sister Sarah. Even though she was several years younger, he felt most comfortable sharing his innermost feelings with her. “What [is there],” he asked in a letter to his father, “like a sisters holy love[?]”2 Such confidence and trust between brothers and sisters was common in middle-class families of the time. Indeed, the relationship was so im­ portant that it served an important symbolic function. In the prescriptive literature of the nineteenth century, the brother-sister bond was exalted as a model of purity in an era when sexual control was a cardinal princi­ ple of morality. The authors of advice books held up the sibling tie as a shining example of chaste, Christian love between a male and a female. There were young men and women who actually did use the brothersister bond as a guide for their own behavior outside the family. Theodore Weld, for instance, pursued his relations with women accord­ ing to the rules he had established in his extended, intimate ties with his own sister, offering his Chnstian guidance in return for chaste but ar­ dent devotion. Lu Burlingame, an Indiana writer and lecturer, also used the sibling relationship as a model. She held off the passions of her eager young beau for two years by invoking the bond of brother and sister— “deep and pure and unselfish.”3 While the brother-sister tie served as a cultural ideal, it also provided important personal experience. For most girls and boys, it was the first peer relationship with the opposite sex, and it served as a bridge be­ tween the separate worlds of male and female. After hours of play with others of their own sex, boys returned home to the world where their sisters spent their time. Here, in the evenings and on rainy days, the children of both sexes mingled more freely than they did at school. Henry Seidel Canby remembered quiet card games with the girls, and Edward Everett Hale recalled that brothers and sisters made up stories and drew pictures together. He also noted that sisters and brothers made an effort to “report every evening to one another” on the events in their separate daytime worlds. In this informal atmosphere, and in the

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more structured setting at the dinner table, boys had their most exten­ sive contact with girls.4 These moments of contact unfolded in the presence of adults. Vigi­ lant and concerned, parents injected their own expectations into the re­ lationships of youthful brothers and sisters. On the one hand, boys were reqmred to play a protective role in their sisters’ lives. By the time they were eight or nine years old, boys were sent to escort their sisters home from evening visits. W ithout prompting from their parents, brothers also defended their sisters against harassment by other boys. In turn, girls had their own obligations to their brothers. Catherine Sedgwick wrote in her popular novel Home that parents “early accustomed [their boys] to receiving household services from their mothers and sisters.” The par­ ents, according to Sedgwick, required this service in the hope “of inspir­ ing [their sons] with a . . . consideration for that sex whose lot it is to be domestic ministers of boy and man.”5 The duties of sororal service and fraternal protection created a recip­ rocal kindness m the relationship of sister and brother, but those same duties also emphasized the difference between the sexes. The male was strong and knew the ways of the world, the woman was weak and knew the arts of the home. Out of this careful sorting of gender traits grew a common pattern of brother-sister relations, a pattern that—as Sedgwick noted—parents were eager to promote. The girls became accustomed to serving their brothers, and grew reliant on fraternal protection in .deal­ ing with the world; as they did so, many developed a habit of adoration toward their brothers.6 For their part, brothers who came to think of their sisters as generous, frail, and adoring often developed that sense of loving, fraternal consideration which their parents had hoped to breed in them. The heartfelt sensitivity of brother for sister is evident in this let­ ter from a beloved brother who was about to be married. As Seargent Prentiss sought to reassure his sister Anna that she would be no “less necessary. . . to my happiness” than she had been, he wrote: If I thought my marriage . . would m one jot or tittle, affect my love for you, or depnve me of any opportunity of enjoying your society, or con­ ducing to your happiness, I should shrink from the hour which I now look forward to with such joyful anticipations. No my own dear sister, my love for you is a part of my existence.7 These were loving, generous words, but they cannot conceal the fact that Prentiss had created a happy situation for himself. He now had two women of his own age who were committed to love and adore him,

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while his sister had to swallow her feelings, share her beloved brother, and wait for fate to deliver her a suitable husband.'* The situation of Seargent and Anna Prentiss makes at least one thing clear: The brother-sister relationship among the middle class served as a two-edged sword. It taught inequality and encouraged love at the same time, and nurtured a separation of the sexes even as it fostered intimacy between them. This relationship did not, of course, begin these lessons, but it did drive their message home forcefully. The structure of the rela­ tionship was neatly reciprocal and distinctly unequal. In the bond between brother and sister, the personal was clearly po­ litical, but it was not only political. The love and warmth between sib­ lings could obscure issues of power; it seeped around and through the formal roles and the official prescriptions to nurture deeply affectionate relationships. These ties often provided young men and women with their first experience of intimacy with a peer of the opposite sex. Aaron and Lucy Olmstead certainly enjoyed such an intimate relationship. They grew up together as part of a large family in Saratoga Springs, New York, but by the time they reached their twenties, they had both left home—Aaron to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and later to teach at a small Connecticut academy, Lucy to live with a different brother and his family in a small Pennsylvania town. During these years of separation, they wrote long and affectionate letters to each other; it is from these letters that we learn about their relationship. Aaron Olmstead liked to confide in his sister. He disclosed his feel­ ings about marriage to her and asked for her advice about the course of his career. He made up acrostics to send her, and, in the loneliness of his position in Connecticut, relied on her to raise his spirits: “I wish you would write to me soon. Your letters are the glad rays that cheer me here.” By the same token, Lucy depended heavily on Aaron. This re­ liance reached a peak during the years she lived in Pennsylvania, where she was surrounded almost entirely by strangers and suffered from a crippling case of homesickness. She wrote at the end of one letter: "I cannot close without begging you to write immediately.. . . [Your] letters . . . are always received tom open and read over and over with the great­ est eagerness.” After the letters came, Lucy thanked Aaron profusely for “his expressions of sympathy and love.” As sad as she was at their separa­ tion, she also worried about the times to come when other loves would stand between them. “If we meet in after years,” she wrote, “it may be with affections centered in other objects, and our time so occupied that it will admit of but a hurried visit.. . Perhaps absence and time may so change us that a seeming coldness may exist between us.” While Lucy

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fretted like a lover, she affirmed her commitment like one, too. She avowed herself “a Sister who will continue to love you the more dearly the longer she is separated from you,” and she signed letters: “Yours with the most sincere love and affection.”9 Because the letters of Aaron and Lucy Olmstead come from a narrow Span of years when they were in their twenties, we have little direct evi­ dence of the longer course of their relationship. Their frequent refer­ ences to the “many past enjoyments” they had shared and the “many scenes of youthful pleasure of which we had partaken” strongly indicate a bond with a long, nch, and affectionate past. We also know that when Lucy returned to Saratoga, and ended her tíme of crushing loneliness, she continued to write frequent, loving letters to her brother in Con­ necticut. Indeed, her letters served as a conduit of information and ad­ vice to Aaron from the rest of the family. In the eyes of parents and sib­ lings, Lucy was Aaron’s chosen one within the Olmstead clan. W hether this relationship maintained its intensity over the course of a lifetime we do not know, but it is clear that their bond offered Lucy and Aaron a special experience of intimacy. They had a chance to test their feelings and their personal skills in an intense relationship with a peer of the op­ posite sex, in a circumstance where expectations were safely limited and the chances of rejection were minimal. Together, brother and sister had given each other a trial run at marriage.10 The Olmsteads offer us an example of genuine sympathy and deep af­ fection between a brother and sister. Still, the same standards that af­ fected other siblings affected this intimate relationship as well. While Aaron wrestled with the choice of which career path he should pursue among a wide range of options, Lucy was stranded in an isolated town where she was sent as a pawn in family plans to help her brother Samuel. As Aaron wrote to Lucy with speculations about when he might many, Lucy could only stand passively, waiting and hoping that someone she liked as well as Aaron might appear in her parlor and find her suit­ able. And although the affection between them was mutual, the hard work of committing feeling into words fell to Lucy. Loving as it was, this relationship gave its participants an intimate expenence of the imbal­ ance between the sexes. In the era of the Olmsteads, the brother-sister relationship served the sexes as a laboratory of love and inequality.

Boys and Girls Together Not every relationship between brother and sister was as close as the one between Aaron and Lucy Olmstead. Distant relationships simply

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passed unnoted in letters and diaries. As for relations that were hostile or tense, the feelings they generated were apparently silenced in the in­ terest of domestic peace. In an era when family ties beyond childhood were largely voluntary and siblings could live far apart as adults, an illmatched brother and sister could simply bury a failed relationship. The silence that surrounded bad feeling between brothers and sisters did not carry over to the wider relationship between the sexes in child­ hood. Indeed, the relations of boys and girls outside the family showed a much broader range of emotions than brother-sister ties did. In particu­ lar, these relations offered boys a more comfortable setting for express­ ing negative feelings about the other sex. For much of the day, boys and girls were separate. They played apart in the schoolyard, and their daily chores afforded them little contact. When left to play freely, the boys headed for the streets and the fields, while the girls stayed close to the house. Still, their activities brought them together often enough to create a sense of familiarity. In most cases, boys and girls were classmates at school. They attended the same churches and went to Sunday school together. On rainy days, the friends of brothers and sisters might inhabit the same house. When the weather was nice, their outdoor spaces were bound to overlap, especially around yards and porches. Boys and girls had ample opportunity to become familiar, and they developed clear and passionately held images of each other.11 The young males held an image of girls that was distinctly two-sided. Boys knew that they preferred the company of other boys, contrasting their own rough play with the gentler pastimes of girls. The opposite sex, they felt, was timid and dull. A girl spent her day in that world of good be­ havior where dirt and noise were not allowed and where—given middleclass tastes of the time—the sun rarely shone.12 The most serious damage to a boys image of girls probably stemmed from the fact that he had re­ cently escaped from that domestic world himself. Boys, after all, spent the first few years of their lives entirely m women s world, closely supervised and dressed m the same clothes as girls. If boys’ feelings about girls con­ tained a great measure of scorn, it was a scorn they felt for an old and frus­ trating identity that they had finally and gleefully shed. Girls were the ob­ jects of ill feeling that they had done little to create. It did not matter to the boys that girls had roused their scorn unwit­ tingly. The boys delighted in the opportunity to attack them. Young Francis Parkman made an electric machine that could give a shock to a whole row of girls at school. More often, boys launched sudden attacks of slapping and scratching. Even more frequently, they pelted girls with mud balls, snowballs, chestnuts, and whatever other small-but-annoying objects came to hand.13

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The girls, especially when treated as an undefined herd of gentle, frilly things, made a handy screen on which a boy could project many hostile feelings. In one quick attack, a boy could take vengeance on an earlier identity, express his disdain for the clean politeness of domestic­ ity, and vent his scorn for the restraint of impulse that home and women represented. The cruelty of boys to girls was in certain ways similar to their cruelty toward small animals. Both categories of victim appeared to boys as frail, defenseless creatures, and both were targets unlikely to light back. In either case, boys were conducting an exercise in power by taking advantage of a situation which they could easily dominate. There is yet another dimension of meaning to the petty violence that boys inflicted on girls. Since boys used rough physical contact to com­ municate fondness as well as dislike, their attacks on girls signified not only hostility but also its opposite, affection. If pelting another boy with stones could be an expression o f regard, a similar assault could transmit the same sort of message from boy to girl. Or at least in the mind of the boy it could. The idea that girls might experience petty attacks m a dif­ ferent way either did not occur to boys or else did not deter them from launching their assaults. The records of nineteenth-century life indicate that boys’ emotions about girls often combined fascinated attraction with the disdain that we have already explored.14 W hen a boy was “stuck on” a girl, he might do little more than exchange glances and giggles. A more adventurous fel­ low might carry a girl’s books home from school or exchange tokens of affection. Older boys liked to find clever ways to send notes to their cho­ sen ones during class time at school, and a few even wrote valentine messages to their sweethearts. While these desultory affairs rarely pre­ occupied the boys, they do indicate a capacity for tender affection to­ ward girls that was totally at odds with the rough, boisterous surface of the youthful male personality. The same boyish interest m the opposite sex showed through in other, more generalized ways. In the classroom, boys liked to pull pranks that would attract the girls’ attention and make them laugh. They were also capable of minor acts of gallantry such as breaking a pencil in half to share with a needy girl or refusing to squirt girls who happened into the midst of a water fight (an odd point of chivalry on the part of boys who liked to splatter young females with mud balls).15 In sum, boys made it clear that they found girls admirable and attractive, even though they displayed an equally genuine sense of scorn and suspicion toward fe­ males. The positive feelings that girls aroused—feelings that the boys seemed to find mysterious and unsettling—may have added a special

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passion to the boys’ feelings of disdain, and thus lent particular vigor to their playful attacks. In all of this, there is little to indicate that boys were paying attention to specific qualities of individual girls. Young females served as nearly blank screens where boys focused positive as well as negative feelings about the opposite sex. The screen was not perfectly blank, of course; boys looked at girls and saw gentler, quieter people than themselves, people enmeshed in a domestic world and dressed in gowns and curls. These few broad cues were enough to elicit a confusing combination of disdain and reverence that was rooted in boys’ early life experience. One common theme that did link these ambivalent feelings was a wish to dominate, either through physical aggression or through the protective gestures of gallantry. The desire to dominate, together with the boyish ambivalence toward girls, formed an important emotional legacy that boys brought with them to the more focused relationships with girls that would come in their late teens.

The “Effects o f‘Cupid’s Darts'” In the world of nineteenth-century childhood, boys and girls assumed that a young male “liked best to be with boys” and “would a great deal rather play with a boy than [a girl] at recess.”16 Then, at about the mid­ teens, boys took a new and serious interest in girls. Not coincidentally, this was the age at which puberty arrived in the nineteenth century. Boys were conscious of the changing forces that drove their interest. One Massachusetts youth of seventeen or eighteen asked a fnend, “[A]t our age when our affections are strongest is it to be supposed that we should not have someone on whom our affections are fixed?” “If it were to be otherwise,” said the boy in answer to his own question, “it would be out of the ordinary course of our nature.”17 What did this dramatic change feel like to a boy who lived through it? Daniel Carter Beard, illustrator and founder of the American Boy Scouts, left a vivid description in his autobiography; “When girl-consciousness en­ tered my young life it swept through it like a tornado.” He “fought vigor­ ously” against the change, but “at length .. threw up [his] hands and suc­ cumbed.” Yet he felt “ashamed” of himself for abandoning “the things which [he] had heretofore deemed the only ones worth while.” These “things” were passions and pastimes like rough games, dirty fingernails, and raucous teasing, which he traded for cotillions and regular baths. He accepted willingly the same “Sunday church clothes” he had resented

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throughout boyhood.18 While he might have noted that these were grown-up men’s clothes, and signs of increasing power and indepen­ dence, he did not experience the change in that way. Rather, he framed the situation m tenns of gender, not age: he felt that he must choose be­ tween a woman's way and a boy's way. And he surrendered readily to the female world he had fought against for so long. In the words of another love-struck youth, these were the “effects of ‘Cupid’s Darts.’”19 Beard and countless other young men gave themselves up to the pursuit of ro­ mance. And how did they pursue romance? There was a wide variety of young people’s activities, some involving large numbers of youthful men and women. As many as twenty or thirty might go out on a sleigh nde or a skating party In a small town, similar numbers might go to quilting or logging bees, while large groups of young city folk would mobilize for outings in the countiy. In the second half of the centuiy, church socials became common. More formal indoor affairs such as balls and cotillions caused special excitement among the young men and women m a given locale. Then, too, there were events—music society meetings, lyceum lectures, public examinations at academies and colleges—that took place for their own purposes but allowed many young single people to mingle freely. All of these social occasions provided pleasant distractions—skat­ ing, dancmg, singing—from the tensions that built when eager, nervous bachelors and misses gathered to measure and be measured for ro­ mance.20 The level of excitement increased at smaller parties and informal gettogethers m private homes. While there was certainly a chance to talk at the laige public events, these private parties were more intimate occa­ sions which put an added emphasis on personal conversation. Depend­ ing on the mood and the people, the talk could be senous or superficial, polite or flirtatious. Even here there were diversions from the mating games in progress. The young people pulled taffy, read aloud, or gath­ ered about the piano to sing.21 O ther diversions, instead of offering distractions, served as ritualized versions of the mating game. Dancing, which had abundant overtones of romance even m a large public hall, became a more intimate gesture in a private home with only a few people present. So passionate were the overtones of dancing that it was forbidden as sinful at many small-town parties. Kissing games offered popular alternatives to the sins of danc­ mg. They involved “a great deal of clasping hands, of going round in a circle, of passing under each other’s elevated arms, of singing about my true love, and the end was kisses distributed with more or less partiality

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according to the rules of the play; but thank Heaven, there was no fid­ dler.” This may seem like an odd way to improve on the “sins” of con­ tredanse, but the folks in Massachusetts did not see it that way: “Kissing was a sign of peace, and was not at all like taking hold of hands and skip­ ping about to the scraping of a wicked fiddle.”22 W hether the amuse­ ment was dancing or kissing games, though, the point remained the same: these diversions let young people play out the romantic dreams and passionate impulses that lay beneath the surface of their tense chat­ ting and anxious flirtation. The balls and parties marked a stunning change for boys who had struggled so long against the world of petticoats and politeness. Reeling already from the new feelings brought by puberty, they felt baffled by the sudden transformation of familiar relationships. In an autobiographi­ cal novel of the era, a boy arrived at his first party, and “the sound of .. girls’ voices . set his heart in a flutter”: He could face the whole district school of girls without flinching,—he didn’t mind ‘em in the meeting house in their Sunday best; but he began to be conscious that now he was passing to a new sphere, where the girls are supreme and supenor and he began to feel for the first time that he was an awkward boy.23 As a boy crossed the threshold into this new arena of feeling and ex­ perience, he dimly realized that he was passing back into women’s world. His sense of mastery slipped away from him when impulses he could not deny drove him into a social realm he could not understand. The experi­ ence of boy culture left a youth unprepared to grapple with this loss of his sense of mastery and control. At this dramatic juncture in life, all but the most isolated youths turned to their male friends for help and support. The attem pt to under­ stand women became a shared obsession, and the pursuit of them be­ came a shared crisis. In boardinghouse bedrooms, on long walks home from parties, and in letters, young men traded intensely in the feelings and details of their relationships with women. They reported on their ac­ tivities—the dances, the visits, the conversations—and they complained when they did “not drive much of a trade in the wooing line.”24 This correspondence between young men also reveals an elaborate intelligence network, full of codes, secrets, and cryptic messages. Young ladies were referred to by designations such as “L— a,” “•*•*/* and “a certain blue eyed one,”25 and veiled communications were common (“— told me a few days since, that when I wrote I might give her love to you,

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if I thought you would accept it”) and so was inside information (“Your sweet-issimus Rebecca has not come to Boston. H er sister will come first.”).06 Young men made baffled attempts to analyze the confused re­ sponses of the young women who caught their fancy (“There was a No, and a Yes, and a blush, and a smile, and a blush, and so you may make what you can of them ”), and they plotted strategy as allies.27 These alliances and networks of intrigue were devices for operating in a foreign country where feeling outweighed reason and grace m attered more than strength. Men faced emotional issues that had played no part in boy culture and that rarely surfaced in their current world of career apprenticeship. Young males found themselves confessing their shyness to one another and fretting together about their problems in attracting women. When Daniel W ebster wrote to his friend Habijah Fuller about the experience of entering a ballroom, he exposed a sense of vulnerabil­ ity that was common to young men: About nine [I] wandered “unfriended and alone” into the ball-room. What a congregation of beauty! Whose heart but must flutter a little, at so many pretty faces?. . . attention was so much divided, that it could not fasten anywhere, and though [I] “trod among a thousand perils,” came off unhurt.28 Feminine beauty (and the feelings it evoked) felt dangerous to Web­ ster, and he wished for the company of a friend to guide him through this peril. A young male knew how to fight back—or at least how to prove himself—if he were mocked or snubbed by other males; but phys­ ical self-assertion gained nothing with a woman, and the rewards for un­ relenting effort were much less certain in the world of romance than they were m the male worlds of work and play. To understand their predicament, young men relied on what they knew: they turned to die familiar language of commerce, ill-suited though it was to the problem at hand. In 1802, Daniel Webster, feanng that all the young women of Hanover might be married before he chose one, made the following proposal to a college friend: “It is true . . . that there is a prospect of all the Hanover Ribs being sold before you and I can become purchasers. How d a you think it would do to forestall the market, and, for the sake of security, to bespeak a Rib in season?”29 A subder variant on this commercial style of thinking was also common: men sized up the women of a town or a region as if comparing ship­ ments of goods at market. “I agree with you that the maids of Saratoga are unrivalled” wrote one youth. “Our New England girls may equal

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them but Yankee as I am give me Saratoga yet.” Another young man compared both the number and the beauty of Maine and Massachusetts women: You know that the new towns have usually more males than females, and old commercial towns the reverse. .. In point of beauty, I do not feel competent to decide. I cannot calculate the precise value of a dimple, nor estimate the charms of an eyebrow, yet I see nothing repulsive in the appearance of Maine Misses.30 As this quotation reminds us, there was a market mechanism of sorts involved in the relation of marriageable men and women, that the ratio of “supply” to “demand” varied from place to place. Still, the metaphor reduced women to commodities in supply. For this reason alone, an eco­ nomic understanding of women could not have been helpful to a man confronting his emotions as he walked into a crowded ballroom or ex­ pressed his interest to a special young woman.31 Men persisted, nevertheless, in drawing on their commercial and competitive visions of the world as they tried to grapple with their ro­ mantic insecurities. The advice they offered each other in dealing with women was no different from the advice they would have offered for success in any other arena. Young Aaron Olmstead gave a friend the fol­ lowing counsel on facing a room full of young women: Depend upon it, “a faint heart never won a fair lady.” If you would make conquests instead of suffering your eyes to be dazzled by a false splen­ dor and sculking [sic] away m the background you must take a mon­ strous dose of Col. Crockett’s “go ahead” . . . and well-prepared with self-assurance .. bounce into the midst of the fair [ladies].32 With its references to self-assurance, conquest, and Davy Crockett, this statement sounds more like a recipe for victory in the warfare of boy cul­ ture than a piece of advice on success with women. Still, there was one respect in which the competitive model of ro­ mance was apt. When a young man sought a woman s attention at a party or a dance, every other member of his sex was a rival. Here was a situa­ tion he could understand, and he responded to it with keen enthusiasm. Half a century after winning his wife’s hand in marriage, the novelist Lew Wallace could still give a sharp description of his four competitors for the young woman’s affection.33 Young men like Wallace knew inti­ mately the perils of competition, and they knew from long experience how to cope with the pangs of defeat.

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What they did not know was the nature of the opposite sex. When they were courting, they feared rejection by a woman far more than de­ feat by a rival. Women appeared as desirable but mysterious beings whose judgment of a young man could elate him or leave him shattered. Young men tried desperately to understand these females who obsessed them.

Devil or Angel?: Attitudes toward Women As much as young men relied on competitive and commercial metaphors to make sense of their relations with women, those were not the only distorting lenses through which they viewed their female coun­ terparts. They brought to their romantic experience a set of attitudes which both deified and degraded women. Young men called them “ce­ lestial maid,” “angelic creature,” and “the fair ones.” On the other hand, they also made frequent associations between women and the temptress Eve. Men used religious imagery to describe women because their feel­ ings about them were transcendently powerful, and the mixture of good and evil in their imageiy shows how deeply ambivalent their feelings were.34 Men portrayed feminine evil as a problem with many facets. They doubted female sincerity, especially in the midst of courting. A New Yorker named Horace Leete praised the woman his brother hoped to marry, saying that her love was “one of true sincerity such as is rarely to be found” in a woman. Young men like Leete especially feared that fe­ males, with their supposed vanity and insincerity, would make fools of them and manipulate them for their own selfish purposes. One man as­ serted that a boy learned as he grew up that "a spider web is stronger than a cable . . . [and] that a pretty little girl could turn him round her finger a great deal easier than a big bully o f a boy could make him cry 'enough.'” Youthful men feared the shrewdness of the opposite sex, and they were frightened by the ability of women to exploit their attractive­ ness to men.35 To some extent, this fear was another expression of young men’s anxi­ ety about being lured back into women’s sphere. A return to a domestic life meant responsibility, confinement, high virtue, and good manners, none of which appealed to the graduates of boy culture. At a deeper level, the re-creation of a home evoked old memories—of wearing girl­ ish clothes, of being constantly watched, and (most threatening of all) of being deeply dependent on a woman. After years of striving for “manly

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independence” and now arriving at the verge of it, male youth grew pan­ icky at the thought of a retreat to dependence. Henry David Thoreau, who was a lifelong bachelor, described the domesticated male as a pa­ thetic caged creature: His house is a prison, m which he finds himself oppressed and confined, not sheltered and protected. He walks as if he sustained the roof; he car­ nes his arms as if the walls would fall m and crush him, and his feet re­ member the cellar beneath. His muscles are never relaxed. It is rare that he overcomes the house, and learns to sit at home in it. Thoreau’s depiction of “the civilized man [with] the habits of the house ’ echoed in Daniel W ebster’s fearful description of m arned life: “This said wed-lock is a very dangerous sort of lock. Once fastened it is fastened forever. It is a lock that one can’t unlock; you can’t break it, you can’t pick it.”36 Young men saw the women who attracted them as lures that drew them back into the cage of domesticity. To describe this aspect of their fear of women, male youths returned to the hunting experiences of boy­ hood. Only now the situation was reversed; they themselves had become the prey. A young man in love was “like a pheasant in a snare.” Another watched the young women of his village search for husbands and vowed: “I will be very careful they do not ensnare me.” Other men found in their situation a new sense of empathy for the fish they had caught as boys. John Barnard thought of his two unsuccessful courtships and “re­ solved aye swore that that bait should not catch me again.”37 Women were at once the fisher and the bait, the trapper and the lure. From one place m their hearts, young men regarded women with the vigilance and fear that the prey feels for the predator. As deeply as young men feared women, however, those fears repre­ sented only one side of their feelings. If their thoughts of women some­ times called up images of devils, hunters, jailers, and the perfidy of Eve, they also evoked images that were reverential and profoundly attractive. Indeed, women would not have looked so dangerous to men if they had not been so appealing, nor would their domestic world have seemed so ensnaring if it had not seemed so desirable. At the basis of women s appeal lay two characterizations of femininity that survived well into the twentieth century: “the fair sex” and “the weaker sex.” Men could not resist the attraction of the female. The “fair ones,” as they sometimes called women, evoked such “romantic passion” that men felt they had lost control of their feelings.36 An incident m the

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autobiography of businessman Charles Flint shows the way bachelors felt about the appeal of feminine beauty. Flint and some fnends stayed up most of one Saturday night celebrating their victory m a sailing re­ gatta. According to a poem written about the occasion by his fnends, Flint “whistled . . . brave bachelor airs” full of “brave anti-marital scorn­ ing” that mght. Yet early the next morning while his fellow celebrants slept, Flint quietly rose, put on his Sunday best, and went ashore to join an attractive young woman at church. His poetic fnends noted that “the eyes of the ladies there won us/ As Heaven can’t win you . . . or me.” They also reached die broader conclusion that “of Beauty Man ne’er knows satiety.” In this tale, the loveliness of a woman could move a man to do that which Heaven itself could not. The story shows how, in spite of “brave antimarital scorning,” feminine beauty lured men willingly away from the familiar pleasure and security of male culture.39 Once drawn out of that protective all-male world, young men found that other feminine qualities attracted them further. Among these traits was what they saw as womens “weakness.” This did not refer primarily to women’s lack of physical strength, and certainly did not connote a want of moral or spiritual power. Men used the word to describe a set of traits th at were the opposite of their own presumed aggression, bold­ ness, and worldly self-confidence. A tum-of-the-century article summed up what men throughout the 1800s saw as the appeal of feminine weak­ ness. “Grace, daintiness . . . are what men like in women,” according to author Rafford Pyke. Women also had a “gentleness that appeals to strength,” and a “dependence [that] appeals to all that is generous and chivalrous and tender in [a man’s] nature. That one he loves should look to him for eveiythmg—protection, maintenance and happiness—what else can be so thrilling to a manly man?”40 To men, feminine depen­ dence dramatized their own hard-won independence and, in so doing, affirmed their sense of manhood. Feminine weakness attracted men for another reason, too. The word weakness directly implies a power relationship, and men had been train­ ing themselves in the uses of power ever since boyhood. Women, by contrast, had been taught cooperation and encouraged in the arts of sub­ mission. Young men seized eagerly on this cultural difference. They found gentle submissiveness appealing: relationships with women of­ fered them a respite from the struggles for dominance that raged con­ stantly in the world of men. The marriage bond, moreover, would be the most important selfcreated relationship of a man’s life. If that relationship had involved a constant struggle for power, it would have added—at the veiy deepest

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levels—to the uncertainties bred by daily life in the turbulence of the marketplace. Thus, young men needed to see young women as weak and dependent; the upbringing of young females conspired with their needs to a great extent. Yet it was one of the greatest ironies of male-female relations in this era that women were not only weak and dependent: they were powerful in some respects, and men wanted them to be that way, too. A young male did not use the word powerful to describe women m their areas of strength, because it would have fed his insecurities to think of women in that way. Instead, he spoke of ways in which a loving female might serve him. The most evident form of service was nurture—something men had been accustomed to receive from women since the moment of birth. The New York bachelor Horace Leete made the following com­ ment on the value of marnage: “I believe that if anything adds to a man’s happiness, it is the society and companionship of a noble hearted and confiding woman. The thoughts of becoming old, and [having no one there] to feel a real interest in our welfare, presents .. a dark and gloomy picture.” As one writer put it: “[A man] wants [a woman] to de­ pend on him, because in his soul he knows he depends on her.”41 The image of woman as a source of strength—a person to depend on—went well beyond the male vision of the female as nurturant and supportive. Men believed that women were transcendently pious and pure. They also believed that a woman had the power to evoke piety and purity in a man. One youth wrote of a woman’s ability to rouse his slum­ bering spirit: “She is to me a guardian angel, ministering to the finer af­ fections of my soul in a maimer wholly new to me, and has awakened new life and energy within my dormant breast.” Another young man quoted Tennyson, saying, “I know of no more subtle master under heaven than is the [youthful] passion for a maid.”42 These statements recall the submission and the dependence of early childhood, of small boys learning right and wrong from the women whose love and care was necessary for their survival. Male youth, arriving at the verge of manhood, still associated a womans love with the stirrings of conscience. When Ulysses S. Grant was an army officer m his early twen­ ties, he told his sweetheart at home about her power over him: You can have but little idea o f the influence you have over me, even while so far away If I feel tempted to anything that I now think is not nght I am shure to think, “Well now if Julia saw me would I do so” and thus it is, absent or present, I am more or less governed by what I think is your will.

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William Lloyd Garrison II summed up this form of male faith in women: “Men would be much better if they acted always as if [women] were looking at them.” The young women who inspired m ens love also aroused the moral sense, which grew dull in the male worlds of sociabil­ ity and work.43 The contradictions in men’s images of women may not have been as clear to the men themselves as they appear to us now. The dense mix­ ture of suspicion and desire had been developing since a boys earliest contacts with women, and it governed the fearful encounters, the bold flirtations, and the stubborn obsessions with women that typified early manhood. At some point, however, a young man crossed a magic line: he be­ came involved m a real relationship with a young woman. Now he was dealing with the unique qualities of a distinct human being, not with the abstract traits of a general group. His long-standing ideas about women did not go away; they were emotional ghosts that would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life. But those spirits had to battle now with the daily evidence of a young man’s senses as he learned about the dis­ tinctive features of a real woman’s personality. His old fears and fantasies had to share his attention with the actual traits and virtues of a woman he had come to love.

Chapter 6

LO V E, S E X , A N D C O U R T S H IP

IN colonial New England and its kindred settlements to the west, there were few arranged marriages. From the start, individual preference was the norm in choosing a wife or husband. Paternal approval was neces­ sary, and fathers occasionally used this veto power, but the fundamental choice belonged to the man and woman who wanted to marry. Thus, love—or something like it—must have played a role in the choice. Physi­ cal attraction, compatible habits and tastes, and a sense of pleasure in each others company presumably influenced these marriage decisions. We do have the testimony of colonial husbands and wives that they loved each other. Yet there were factors that kept love from playing the kind of role in colonial courtships and marriages that it was to play in the nineteenth century. God and community placed heavy demands on the love and al­ legiance of the individual. Men and women reminded themselves that their emotional commitments belonged to God above all; they sinned in loving anything of this world too deeply. This did not prevent love be­ tween man and woman, but it surely inhibited such love. So did the communal frame of mind that dominated colonial New England. Per­ sonal relationships were bounded by mutual duties, and individual incli­ nations had to make a place for themselves within that structure.1 Only when the demands of God and community began to recede could love in the modem sense come into full flower.

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Romantic Love To understand the historical emergence of modem love, we need to un­ derstand the appearance of what some have called the "romantic self.” This is the belief that every person has a unique essence, a fundamental core that remains when all social roles and conventions are stripped away. A man or a woman in love shares that essence with his or her beloved as with no other person. This shanng of ones innermost self is vital to modem romantic love.2 Before such shanng (and such love) could happen readily, two histoncal changes had to take place in the Northern states. The first change was religious. The romantic self is the same personal essence as the Christian soul, the chief difference being that a tm e Christian—at least in the Puritan sense—shares that innermost core with God and not with a beloved human. Before romantic love was possible lustoncally, God’s exclusive claim on a person’s tm e core had to recede as a cultural belief. The second historical change that had to take place was social and cul­ tural. As long as the dominant conception of the individual was that of an inhabitant of many roles and statuses, the romantic self was probably unimaginable. At least, it was inaccessible to other people. As the religious and social beliefs of the Puritans lost their ability to shape individual lives during the eighteenth centuiy, the romantic self became more accessible. By the end of that century. New Englanders were speaking the language of romance. Romantic love was emerging as the main criterion for marriage. By the nineteenth century, romance had become a cultural ideal, the unquestioned essence of love. And love was the sme qua non of the marnage choice. A Pennsylvania man expressed the faith of his time when he wrote in 1850: "Marriage without love can­ not fail to be a source of perpetual unhappiness.”3 Individual men and women who lived out this new concept of roman­ tic love did not experience it in the same terms we have used to describe it here. Instead, nineteenth-century lovers spoke of profound mutual sympathy. One young man wrote that love involved "the appreciation of each other’s character and the strong sympathy and similitude of thought and feeling,” while another expected that he and the woman he loved would always “sympathize and contrive together and be so happy.” A third man used the same language of deep sympathy m this love poem: There is a breast congenial with all My views o f excellence and worth; Alive to sentiment and friendship’s holy flame.

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1 will not then forget the mind intelligent And bright— nor yet the heart Where sympathy and kindness ever swell; But think I have a place in [her] affections. The ideal of love was for two people to be as finely tuned to one another as possible.4 Because men and women in love felt driven toward a complete and shared understanding, they set an extremely high value on candor. A man named Clayton Kingman told his sweetheart, Emily Brooks: “I want you to be as open and confiding to me, as to any one, and I will be to you.” “Let us,” he wrote on another occasion, “be more like one, let us communicate our ideas, our notions to each other.” When aspiring doc­ tor Edward Jarvis realized that he had never told his fiancée about the diary he kept, he wrote: “I am very sorry I did not tell her before. I have disclosed all my secrets (except this) to her and she has reciprocated the confidence. I will not be reserved on any other thing to her.”5 Candor connected two people who inhabited separate spheres. It moved lovers past the stereotypes of the opposite sex and confronted them with the real people obscured by the larger images. For a man, this meant seeing a woman not as devil or angel, temptress or paragon, but as one particular human being. Ideally, he opened up his true self and found the true self of his beloved open in return. With its promises of in­ timacy and oneness, romantic love offered a grand, irresistible dream to young people of the nineteenth century.

Courtship For all of its potential rewards, love presented young men—and young women—with a set of problems as well, beginning with the basic struc­ ture of courtship. As with many other social situations since childhood, the males were allowed broad initiative, while a woman had very narrow latitude.6 He could choose a person to pursue more freely than she could. Still, courtship, as a social situation, had unfamiliar and threaten­ ing dimensions for a young male. In particular, the quest for love and marriage presented a man with standards of success that were foreign to him. At work or elsewhere among his own sex, a male was judged largely for what he could do. In courtship, on the other hand, a woman judged him largely for who he was. To be sure, his attainments of occupation and income might affect his eligibility to court a woman, but in the end

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she accepted or rejected him because of his qualities of person. His whole being was subject to judgment in courtship, and the stakes—mar­ riage and companionship for life—were the highest he had ever played for. Young men were used to risks, but not risks of this kind. The structure of courtship was such that women could thwart mens dreams, frustrate their plans, and leave them feeling unworthy and em­ barrassed. Thus, romance and the pursuit of marriage drew out some of men’s deepest suspicions about women even as the experience elicited some of their most exalted feelings. Male suspicion focused on the possi­ bility that women could use their attractiveness and their power to say no as a way to make fools of men and gratify their own vanity. A woman who behaved in this way was called a coquette, and men often described their feelings about coquetry in writing. Lucien Boynton, an aspinng lawyer, doubted that “such a person has . . . strict and well-established moral principles.” In writing about the woman he was courting, Lucien said bluntly: “She will sacrifice anything, no m atter what to the object she may have in view which may be merely the gratification of her van­ ity.” Events proved that Boynton had reason to be suspicious, for the young woman in question suddenly broke off with him when she be­ came engaged unexpectedly to a new suitor.7 We cannot know höw many women m courtship acted purely out of vanity. What we do know is that young men wrote about coquettes fre­ quently and with fear. The central issue, it seems, was power. Young men were not used to women having control over them, and the females they courted did have personal power over their feelings and fate. The experience roused emotions remembered from infancy and boyhood, when mothers played the unenviable role of archfrustrater to their sons. For some men, this had been the only important experience of submis­ sion to a woman, and it left them suspicious of females who had the power to thwart them. The truth of the m atter was that women labored under greater handi­ caps than men did. Although women did have some power in courtship, it was largely the power to say no and thus to hurt or frustrate a suitor. Women could not do as their brothers did and actively seek out a part­ ner. Instead, they had to wait for an interested male to come along. Early in the centuiy, a young woman named Eliza Southgate pointed out that “the inequality of privilege between the sexes is . . . in no instance.. . greater than in die liberty of choosing a partner in marriage; true, we have the liberty of refusing those we don’t like, but not of selecting those we do.”8 Woman’s relatively passive role in courtship was made worse by the

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fact that the choice of a partner had deeper implications for her than for a man. Her husband would determine where she lived, what level of wealth and status she attained, and how she might structure her life. As a leading historian of courtship has said, “it was men who . . . held the lives of women in their hands.”9 Young men sometimes showed an awareness of this basic inequity. A Connecticut law student observed thoughtfully that the marriage contract was “much more important in its consequences” to women than to men: for besides leaving everything else to unite themselves to one man they subject themselves to his authority—they depend more upon their hus­ band than he does upon the wife for society and for the happiness and enjoyment of their lives,—he is their all—their only relative—their only hope—but as for him—business leads him out of doors, far from the company of his wife, and it engages his mind and occupies his thoughts so as frequently to engross them almost entirely and then it is upon his employment that he depends almost entirely for the happiness of his life.10 If young men felt that their situation in courtship was dangerous, the reason lay not in a balance of power that was structured against them, but in the fact that their feelings and their self-esteem were so deeply at risk. In a situation like courtship, it did not take a designing woman to hurt a mans feelings. A kind, sincere woman, if she discouraged his in­ terest or refused his proposal of marriage, could plunge her disap­ pointed suitor into depression and tum ult.11 Young men knew that they risked pain and humiliation in courtship, and they defended themselves with stubborn emotional restraint. When John Barnard of Thomaston, Maine, was rejected by his longtime sweetheart, Lucinda, he boasted that “she did not know the strength of my feelings!,] she could not. I had guarded myself with the utmost care, too proud to let any one know he or she had the power to mar my peace one moment.” This pride in the concealment of feeling was a male custom that dated back to the con­ cealment of pam and gentleness in the play of boyhood. Many men turned to it out of habit when confronted by the risks of courtship.12 And yet the open expression of feeling was vital to courtship, so male restraint caused problems. A Midwestern woman, Mary Butterfield, complained that the man who courted her. Champion Chase, was “too cold and reserved at heart.” Chase, who was a lawyer, could only reply, “I have endeavored to govern my feelings in all circumstances.” The rela­ tionship between Butterfield and Chase survived his frosty self-control, but other men were not so fortunate. One woman in the 1830s broke

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her engagement to a Harvard student because she “felt there was a re­ serve in [his] nature” which did not “upon intimate acquaintance be­ come the more open and frank.”13 The guarded manner of these men forced women to be more cautious in showing their feelings. The men sensed correctly that the women were holding back and interpreted this restraint as an attem pt at manipulation. That, m turn, roused male suspi­ cion, and so it went m a vicious circle. Courtship, then, contained many stumbling blocks to love, to trust, and, ultimately, to marriage. Social expectation threw yet another barrier in the path to wedlock, for people agreed that a man must be able to support a wife before he could many. The young man knew this not only from common sense, but from the weight of advice which pressed upon him from many directions. Printed counsel told him that he should not marry until he could support a family “in circumstances of comfort.” And fathers reminded their sons that love might “achieve a great many tilings but there are some things it cannot do; it cannot pay your rent Bill or your Board Bill.”14 When a young male broached the subject of marriage with the woman of his heart, he always conditioned his proposal on his ability to support her. The tone of these statements showed that a mans readiness to serve as a breadwinner was taken for granted as a requirement for marriage. A ministerial candidate named Ephraim Abbott said as much in 1808 when he wrote to his sweetheart, Mary Pearson: “If I am ever in circumstances to make honorable provision for a family, you will then become my companion, my consort.” In the final years of the century, a man’s ability to support a family remained the central requirement for marriage. Ray Stannard Baker, later an eminent journalist, fell “hallway m love” several times m the 1890s, but—fresh out of college and work­ ing as his father’s real estate assistant—he “could see no prospect at least for years of earning enough money to set up a home of [his] own.” For Baker and countless others like him, these practical considerations only added to the problems created by inner anxiety about love and marriage.15 With so many difficulties in the way, it may seem surprising that middleclass men of the nineteenth-century North married at all. And yet most men were eager—and sometimes desperate—to get married. Typically, young men responded to letters from their beloveds much more quickly than the young women responded in turn, and also wrote longer love letters than they received. As one impatient fellow told his intended: “[T]here [is] no sin in declaring that I am extremely anxious for our union.” A young woman named Annie Wilson understood this male

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frenzy, describing with wry humor her willingness to set a muchpostponed wedding date: “The ostensible reason is that there is no ne­ cessity for waiting—the real reason [is] that Frank w ont w ait. . . so I in the most dutiful manner consented to put him out of his misery.”16 With so much personal ambivalence and so many external obstacles, why were men so eager to get married? First and quite simply, marriage was a mark of full manhood, and manhood was a status to which males urgently aspired. Especially for young men whose careers were starting to take shape, wedded life completed the social identity of a male adult. Second, mens daily condition at this point m the life cycle made mar­ riage look attractive. Frequently (and emphatically), they said that they were lonesome. Most of them had broken away from the warmth and nurture of their boyhood homes, and, as much as they cherished their long-sought independence, they yearned for someone who could offer tender, loving care, and even add a bit of moral ballast to their lives. Above all, they wanted a faithful companion, someone they could always count on to be there.17 A young teacher and engineer named Levi Lockling complained that he did not meet enough marriageable women and announced to his friend Aaron Olmstead: “I am tired of being a bachelor, and of being such an isolated being [m] the wide world.” Other men made more ex­ plicit statements about their desire for a home of their own. Maine bach­ elor Stephen Tuckerman told his sister that he yearned to “taste the comforts and enjoyments of a home with the society of a bosom com­ panion to solace a portion of [his] time at the domestic fireside and in the bosom of a family.”18 Marriage held out a promise not only of com­ panionship, but of shelter and security. One additional factor helped to create the urgency that men felt about marnage. Even in the earliest years of the century, the average Amencan male first joined a woman m matnmony when in his midtwenties. The expenence of the men studied here (who are not, to be sure, a scientific sample) suggests that the average age of marriage for Northern middle-class males in the early nineteenth century was a few years older than for the general population of men. Other studies have shown that, m the later years of the century, the average middle-class male did not marry until he was nearly thirty.19 In an era when puberty came in the midteens and young men entered the middle-class work force in their late teens or early twenties, the delayed age of marriage in­ creased all the pressures mentioned so far—the loneliness, the wish for a home, the need of solace and comfort. It must also have created an al­ most unmanageable problem for young men m coping with sexual feel-

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ing. On the average, a middle-class man lived as a bachelor for ten to fif­ teen years after puberty, and he did so in a culture with stringent rules against premarital sex. W hether a young man abided by these rules or not, he needed a legitimate outlet for his sexual impulses. So young men tried to build ,bridges across the gulf that separated them from women. Those bridges were a long time in the building, but virtually all men did many. Sooner or later, they summoned the courage for the most perilous step—the proposal of marriage. Most men eventu­ ally received an acceptance, even if not on the first try or from the first woman they asked.

Transition to Marriage In between the shifting moods of courtship and the commitment of mar­ riage, there was a period of transition. It combined many of the uncer­ tainties of courtship with the sense of devotion that belonged ideally to wedded life. During the nineteenth century, this period of transition came to be known as “engagement,” and, while it mixed the features of courtship and marriage, it also had distinctive qualities of its own. This was a time of material preparation for married life, a phase in the rela­ tionship when lingering doubts were addressed and deeper understand­ ings were sought. The engagement period, which began officially with the announce­ ment of the couples intention to marry, was a way for the man and woman to place themselves under the eye of the community. The deci­ sion that led to the public announcement, however, was an intensely pri­ vate one. The woman and the man were deciding to pledge themselves to one another for a lifetime. Thus, engagement marked a deeply per­ sonal commitment at the same time that it announced a very public en­ tity—the couple. Marriage was, after all, both an intimate relationship and a vital link in the larger social network. The relative emphasis on the public and private aspects of engage­ ment shifted during the nineteenth century, and the shift serves as a clear indicator of the changing meaning of marriage. Early in the cen­ tury, when people spoke of “betrothal” instead of “engagement,” the central event was “publishing” the fact that a man and a woman had pledged to marry. The couple posted a notice on the door of the local meetinghouse and then the minister announced their intentions from the pulpit. The basic rituals of betrothal emphasized the bonds between the couple and their community.

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By midcentury, a new set of rituals with a private emphasis was re­ placing the more communal ones. The engagement was announced through personal channels, not public ones. The families of the prospec­ tive bride and groom wrote to friends and relatives to inform them of the couples pledge. During the second half of the century, in other words, people no longer informed the whole community of an engage­ ment, and communal institutions played no role in making the an­ nouncement. Another engagement custom that developed during the nineteenth century stressed the private importance of the bond: this was the exchange of tokens (usually rings) to mark the pledge between woman and man. The choice of tokens was personal, and the ritual of the tokens emphasized the distinctiveness of the couple rather than their likeness to other couples. Such rites of engagement were suited to an era of individualism, while the customs of betrothal had been fitted for a time when the community was supreme.20 W hether the period began with public or private rituals, there were certain tasks that most couples needed to accomplish during the transi­ tion to marriage. They had to make material preparations for wedded life, and wedded life meant the creation of a home. Although the tasks were often shared, the man took chief responsibility for finding a place to live and conducting the business needed to secure it. The woman had the job of turning that house into a home. She furnished it and added domestic touches that gave it a feeling of security and comfort. She also spent a great deal of time making or buying the linens and clothing that comprised her trousseau. As the century progressed, these items were more likely to be given as gifts to the prospective middle-class bride; still, even as the burden of the trousseau lightened, another duty grew heavier. Weddings became increasingly elaborate during the course of the nineteenth century, and a woman shared with her family the responsibility for planning the event. H er future husband usually managed to avoid the details of wedding preparation. Once a house was found, his main task was to build the ca­ reer and earn the money that would provide the base for their married life. A couple s first negotiations over money frequently took place when the woman, in the process of setting up the household, had to ask her fi­ ancé for money to use on furnishings. The wedding might be months in the future, but the couple was already establishing married roles for the husband-provider and the wife-consumer.21 As they began to work at the material tasks of marriage, the betrothed man and woman continued the process of deepening their intimacy. The basic issues remained the same as they had been in the earlier stages of

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romance. They sought, as one man put it, an “entire sympathy and confi­ dence.” The means to that end was still candor. Clayton Kingman of Connecticut affirmed the doctrine of candor to his fiancée: “May we be frank and open, and with all, kind and forbearing, then we can be happy.”22 If the betrothal was a time to deepen intimacy, then the opportunities to do so were extensive: nineteenth-centuiy engagements lasted much longer than their twentieth-century counterparts. Two-year engage­ ments were common; a Concord, Massachusetts, couple endured nearly eight years from the time they were pledged to marry until the day of the wedding. Why did engagements last so long? The primary reason was the requirement that a man should be able to support a household before he married. This obligation linked a young man s urgent desire for wedded life to the unpredictable progress of his career. The unfortu­ nate couple from Concord began their eight-year engagement just after the prospective husband, Edward Jarvis, graduated from Harvard, in 1826. At the time, Edward had not even chosen a career. Once he de­ cided to pursue medicine, he had to complete his professional education and endure a major failure as a small-town doctor before he was ready to support his beloved Almira Hunt.23 Although a man’s breadwmnmg ability was the first factor m deter­ mining the length of an engagement, other causes could increase the time in subtle but significant ways. In the families of certain women, parental reluctance slowed the arrival of the wedding date. The parents sometimes disapproved of their daughters’ choice of husbands, but more oftën they were simply loathe to part with cherished daughters. The Reverend Eliphalet Pearson, for example, had watched with approval as Ephraim Abbott courted his daughter, Mary. Pearson served as a mentor to the young mimster, who became a virtual member of the Pearson family during five years of courtship. Then, when Ephraim finally gained a pastorate that could support Mary in suitable fashion, Eliphalet Pear­ son began to hesitate. He told Ephraim that they should “wait for de­ cency” to get married. Since the couple had already been courting for more than five and a half years, it is hard to imagine when more “de­ cency” might have arrived.24 Prospective brides, for their part, often balked as the wedding ap­ proached. They felt the same reluctance to leave their families that their parents felt about their leaving, for marnage meant “the relinquishment of those nameless ties which render home so delightful in early years.” The delight of early years grew not only from loving bonds at home but also from the relative freedom to learn, to visit, to meet new people, that

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women enjoyed while single. As Alexis de Tocqueville put it, “the amusements of the girl cannot become the recreations of the wife.” In­ deed, a young woman could expect few recreations in marriage. H er life would be circumscribed by her domestic duties and her well-being would depend heavily on the efforts of her husband. On top of all that, she faced the dangers of nineteenth-century childbearing. Young women expected such a sharp and painful transition to wedded life that many suffered from a kind of “marriage trauma,” which one historian de­ scribes as “a withdrawal of emotional intensity from the too-burdened marriage choice.”25 This withdrawal of emotion appeared to the young men who courted these women as an endless senes of excuses for delaying the wedding day. Confronted with these sudden hesitations, the eager husbands-tobe responded in the mode they knew best: aggressive action. They pressed constantly for an early wedding date, and the more their fi­ ancées hesitated, the harder they pressed. Usually (but not always), the woman relented.26 Thus, the couple arnved at the altar, with each probably happy and excited but also often harboring misgivings. Years of hope and frustra­ tion, of dreams and fears, were focused on that moment of union. It was a union of two separate individuals in search of love, companionship, and comfort, and a symbolic union of two separate spheres that wove to­ gether the complementary talents and values of male and female to strengthen the social fabric. Finally, this was a union of two bodies to express love and to produce new generations of men and women. It was, in other words, a sexual union as well as a personal and social one. As a young man and a young woman courted and then committed themselves to marriage, they had to confront their feelings about sexuality. Ideally, they made an effort to align their sexual needs and wishes as nearly as possible. Before we ex­ plore middle-class marriage in the nineteenth century, we need to un­ derstand the clashes and the compromises over sex that took place previ­ ous to the wedding day.

Sex before Marriage: Attitudes and Experience Throughout the twentieth century, historians have treated Victorian sex­ uality as a contradiction m terms. Students of the nineteenth century have delighted m accounts of pianos dressed to cover their naked legs and therapies designed to suppress masturbation. Only in the past gen-

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eration have historians begun to explore the relation between public prescriptions and private norms, between expressed ideas and actual be­ havior. While middle-class ideas and experience took different forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, recent research has shown that there was far more to die history of Victorian sexuality than a reign of re­ pression. The repressive reputation of the nineteenth century grew out of ide­ ology more than behavior. Middle-class moralists preached the doctnne of sexual restraint from the pulpit, in the medical press, and on the lec­ ture circuit. They started from the assumption that nature had endowed men with tremendous sexual passion while leaving women with little or perhaps with none at all.27 Working from there, the preachers of purity urged manly self-control. They called not only for premarital chastity but for complete mastery of sexual feeling. One important step in this process was the suppression of masturba­ tion. The missionaries for self-control insisted that this “solitaiy vice” would lead to the breakdown of intellect and the destruction of will, and thus to effeminacy, to insanity, and even to prem ature death.28 Even if he never touched a woman, a man’s sexual desires could ruin him: he had to cut them off at the source to save his own body and soul. Clever men, concerned with the welfare of youth, invented tools to help young males tame their impulses. One such device, when worn by a man, would cause a bell to ring every time he got an erection.29 Even with such technical help, the individual male bore the burden of responsibility for suppressing his sexual desires. Sylvester Graham, one of the leading missionaries for self-control, declared that “LASCIVI­ OUS DAY-DREAMS” amounted to “unchastity of thought.” He warned that “this adultery o f the mind, is the beginning of immeasurable evil to the human family.” Such fantasies, by their very nature, were subject only to self-control. Graham and others like him set an immense task for men: to master their behavior by subduing their feelings and even by suppressing their daydreams. One historian has rightly called the ideal of the nineteenth-century sex advisers an “athlete of continence” who was constantly “testing his manliness in the fire of self-denial.”30 This stringent code developed in the early nineteenth century, when the expansion of commerce lured young men away from the traditional values and communal vigilance of small towns. The ideology o f sexual repression offered an alternative to the unchecked selfishness of the marketplace; it provided a sense of personal control and a form of moral discipline at a time when ethical chaos seemed imminent.31 This doc­ trine of self-control hardened into a public orthodoxy once the migration

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from country to city became a steady, permanent flow. The twentiethcentury view of nineteenth-century sexuality is based largely on that re­ pressive Victorian orthodoxy. But historians have begun to uncover a different set of male sexual values. In fact, the very existence of the ideology of self-control—and the vehemence with which it was asserted—might have suggested long ago to historians that an opposite doctrine existed. The quiet, powerful opposition to the orthodoxy of self-denial came from an ethic of male ag­ gression. Although this doctrine was rarely articulated on paper, it made its power felt in many ways. We can guess that such an ethos of sexual aggression existed at the start of the nineteenth century simply by look­ ing at the premarital pregnancy rate. Between 1761 and 1800, roughly one American bnde m three went to the altar pregnant. The rate for the next forty years dropped to one in four.32 Even with the rate in decline, it is clear that many young men were ready to engage in coitus before mar­ riage. Presumably, some of those young men were from the Northern middle class. Another kind of evidence for the doctrine of sexual aggression comes from the testimony of those who opposed it. Many evangelicals com­ plained of the widespread pressure on young men to experiment with sex before marriage, and a late-century American physician railed against fathers who tickled the pemses of their baby sons into a state of erection to assure themselves that their sons were “robust.”33 Purity ad­ vocates pointed out time and again that the ethos of sexual aggression had its roots in two widespread assumptions—that nature had endowed the male with an immense sexual appetite, and that it was necessary for him to satisfy that appetite. A physician who joined the purity movement of the late 1800s denounced “those among the males of our generation, who attribute to men an inherent natural need to gratify passions, claim­ ing that the weaker sex understands it to be necessary to mans nature, and willingly tolerate lustful ante-nuptial and post-nuptial practices.” Observations of a general tolerance and encouragement of male sex­ ual aggression came from individuals in their private writing as well as from public advocates in books and speeches. Maud Rittenhouse, an Illi­ nois woman, lamented in her diary that “boys are taught all their lives that purity is only for women (some women) and vice a necessity to them and ‘natural.’” The assumption was widely held in nineteenth-century America that males had urgent sexual passions; the next logical step was the belief that it was natural and necessary for men to express those pas­ sions. An assumption like this may not be quite the same thing as a moral imperative, but its effect on behavior (by discouraging opposition

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to male sexual expression) was probably much the same. It provided a basis m belief that encouraged aggressive sexuality in men.34 The existence of an ethic of sexual aggression is also consistent with the experience of males during boyhood. Boys certainly learned from each other that aggressive expression of impulse was appropriate male behavior. This vital lesson could easily be applied to sexual dnves. Since boys often expressed their affectionate feelings toward each other through physical aggression, the experience of boy culture helped pre­ pare a growing male to accept a code of sexual conduct that stressed die aggressive expression of impulse. There were no tracts that taught this ethic of assertive sexuality, and no preachers who urged its virtues, but its strength is clear by evidence and by inference. Middle-class men, in sum, were confronted by two ethics of sexual conduct, one urging the “natural” expression of aggressive impulses and the odier demanding stringent self-control. Charles Rosenberg, who was the first historian to identify diese conflicting codes, has observed that “few males were completely immune from the reality of both.”35 How did these two codes develop within die life of a young male? To what ex­ tent did diey conflict during boyhood? The evidence about the sex edu­ cation of middle-class boys is thin, but there are enough fragments of data to perm it a few informed guesses. A boys exposure to contradictory sexual attitudes probably began at an early age. The rise of moral motherhood m the late eighteendi and early nineteenth centuries must have focused women s attention on the nascent sexuality of their children.36 The masturbation phobia that gripped the middle class during the 1800s would have provided special encouragement for mothers to stop children from stimulating their own sexual pleasure. On the other hand, we have already seen that purity ad­ vocates complained of fathers who tickled their infant sons’ pemses into a state of erection to assure themselves of the next generation s virility. By the time a boy reached the age of six or seven, he was also subject to a constant and increasing influence from boy culture, which persistently stressed the expression of aggressive physical impulses. If this cursoiy sketch of boyhood sexual influences is correct, the forces of suppression and expression were already dividing up along gen­ der lines dunng boyhood. As was so often the case m middle-class cul­ ture, “female” meant restriction and “male” meant release. Long before adult sexual feeling had surfaced, conflicting pressures—with strong overtones of gender—were building up around sexuality.37 Then pubertv arrived and brought these emotions to the surface. A male youth en­ countered an intense barrage of sexual advice from ministers, purity cm-

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saders, and an abundant advice literature. This barrage added public anxiety to the forces that already bore upon a young man’s burgeoning sexuality. By the time such a young man approached his first romantic relationship, he had been assailed by pressures and counterpressures of great strength. Given the welter of feelings and the tangle of advice attached to sexu­ ality, how did young men actually govern their sexual behavior? What happened when they were confronted by a teal relationship with an ac­ tual woman? Some simply ignored one line of sexual counsel and fol­ lowed the other. This pattern was sufficiently common that “neat cate­ gories of ‘clean men’ and libertines” seemed reasonable to thoughtful people. One man wrote about the kind of "boy who was not afraid to tri­ fle with the most forward of girls,” and who was thereby "esteemed above his years and almost [as] a man.” These were the “libertines,” the young men who ignored counsels of purity and responded to the social encouragement of aggressive male sexuality. The “clean men” defined themselves in contrast to the sexually active ones. These “athletes of continence” took pnde in being "those who practiced [sex] not at all.” They constructed barriers of self-denial which Daniel Webster referred to as “the restraints which youth, with infinite pains, imposes on its pas­ sions.”38 Young men who embodied the pure types of self-denial or sexual ag­ gression were distinctly visible to their peers, but it may have been the exceptional nature of their behavior that made them stand out. Very lit­ tle evidence survives to help us make judgments about the frequency of sexual activity among middle-class youth, or about what percentages of this group held various attitudes about sex. The limited testimony avail­ able does suggest that the young man who heeded only one extreme of sexual counsel was exceptional. Most seemed to search for a way to obey one sexual ethic without violating the other. As they struggled with this conflict, young men developed different patterns of thought and behavior to help them abide by both codes at once. These strategies—for, unconsciously, they were strategies—were distinct but not mutually exclusive. Young men might use any or all of them, depending on their needs and inclinations. One of the ways m which male youth reconciled the conflicting codes of sexual behavior was by thinking of love in a way that drained its erotic content. Charles Van Hise, the aspiring geologist who would later serve as president at the University of Wisconsin, gave full expression to this idea in a letter to his fiancée, Alice Ring. “A man becomes acquainted with a woman,” he wrote, “[and] finds her character pure, her thoughts

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chaste.” The two discover “something in each other which answers a vague restless longing of their higher natures. The two minds are har­ monious; they have the same general hopes, tastes, aspirations.” Van Hise carefully contrasted the exalted love of this hypothetical couple with that love “which unites the bodies of man and woman.” He noted scornfully that “this grosser [bodily] love. . . is but a . . refined form of sensuality.”39 Van Hise’s contemporary Sigmund Freud, would have called this pure, ethereal attachment a form of sublimation. O ther men. who de­ scribed spiritualized romance recognized it as a way to exalt love above its unseemly beginnings m instinct. Dio Lewis, who was a leading purity advocate in the late nineteenth centuiy wrote about the relationship be­ tween love and sex to a man who had just married: 'Tour enjoyment of the courtship was intense. It grew out of the sexual instinct___ Subordi­ nated to mind and soul, this passion is a great source, not only of the sweetest delights of our earthly life, but of the deepest and most endur­ ing love.” When literary critic Heniy Seidel Canby reflected in the 1930s on his youthful expenence of romance m the 1890s, he recalled “falling in and out of love” as a youth “with never a crude pang of sex, though in a continuous amorous excitement which was sublimated from the grosser elements of love.” This ethereal concept of romance flourished because it provided men with a way to reconcile the counsels of erotic aggression and sexual restraint. By allowing people to think of love as an out-of-body experience, the idea of spiritualized love offered deliver­ ance from the contradictory demands of male sexual values.40 This ethereal view of romance could be combined readily with an­ other strategy for reconciling the conflicting codes of sexual behavior. Certain young men found that if they pursued spiritualized love and practiced self-restraint with one class of women, they were still free to enjoy erotic pleasures and give vent to their natural passions with an­ other. In his autobiography, Henry Seidel Canby offers a striking de­ scription of this practice of the “double standard.” The boys that Canby knew m the late nineteenth century divided girls into two categories: “nice girls” and “chippies.” The nice girls came from good families—that is, from families of the business and professional classes of Canbys hometown. Canby reports that he and his friends “were familiar by hearsay or experience with the sexual in every sense, yet did not think in those terms of the girls of our own class for a simple reason—we did not want to. That came after marriage.” The young males built their rela­ tionships with girls of their own class on spiritualized love instead of sex, and, as Canby puts it, their notion of “romance was incompatible with

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our quite realistic knowledge of sex.” He writes that "sex, naked and unashamed, with no purpose but its own gratification, was kept m its place, which was not friendship, not even the state of falling in love.”41 For Canbys friends, sex had its place not in love, but in relations with young women of other, lower classes. Male youth from middle- and upper-class backgrounds “raided the amusement parks or the evening streets in search of girls that could be frankly pursued for their physical charms.” Canby writes openly about the exploitative, impersonal nature of these liaisons. With a “chippy,” a young man could turn loose his pas­ sions. “It was the old woman hunt,” writes Canby: her pretty face, her shapely limbs, were all there was to a “chippy”— companionship, friendliness never entered to complicate a simple and exciting relationship except in surprising moments when a plaything struggling against a last and not too determined assault, became suddenly a human being pleading to be aided against the ardors of her own blood.42 Here was a way for a youth from a middle-class background to heed the pressure for sexual adventure and yet remain true to the code of pu­ rity. He tested his passions on women of a different class whose human­ ness he recognized only fleetingly and with surprise. The pursuit of chippies created many problems. For one, it did not nurture good feelings about sex. Canby confessed: “We learned to asso­ ciate amorous ardors with the vulgar, or, worse, with the commonplace, and to dissociate them sharply from romance.” These young men found in their experience with chippies a confirmation of what they had be­ lieved from the start: that sex and nice girls should have nothing to do with each other.43 Furthermore, the pursuit of chippies required not just a denial of humanness, but a denial of humanness based on class preju­ dice. This sexual adventuring could have come easily to a male youth schooled in the rough classroom of boy culture. The very language with which Canby describes youthful encounters with chippies—a language of play and playthings, of raids and the hunt—bears the imprint of boy culture. The seduction of a chippy as described by Canby sounds like the story of a boy hunter who takes pity on a squirrel when it screams for its life in his trap. Even the undertone of class antagonism carries an echo of the sharp clashes between boys from different neighborhoods and social orders. Moreover, since the hunt took place outside of their middle-class world, it enabled male youth from comfortable families to

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feel as if they were obeying the bourgeois code of self-denial. It was the women from “good families” who seemed to generate the call for sexual purity, and it was they who were spared sexual aggression by the boys who sought out chippies. For the male youth who wished to avoid lustful activity with “nice girls,” another sexual outlet was available. Prostitution resembled the en­ counter with chippies in many ways: it safely removed sex from one's own social world, dehumanized the experience (which may have made it feel like less of a moral violation),, and bore overtones of worldly adven­ ture. There were differences, though. Prostitution was illegal, it was a business, and it meant buying sex instead of earning it by conquest. A paucity of evidence keeps us from knowing how many middle-class youths had sex with prostitutes or how frequently they did so. We have enough fragments of information to hazard a few broad statements, however. Given the constant and growing presence of prostitution m American cities through the nineteenth century, there must have been some percentage of middle-class youth that frequented brothels. We know that the pnce structure of brothels late in the century suggests a disproportionately affluent clientele. It seems fair to assume that at least some of these bourgeois clients must have been young bachelors. A visit to a prostitute gave a middle-class bachelor another way to straddle the conflicting demands for sexual assertion and purity.44 One more—and very different—way for a young man to handle these contending pressures was to turn the duty for sexual control over to the woman he loved. For engaged men, this strategy seemed to be the most common of the three. One historian has observed: “In general, couples became involved in sexual ‘boundary disputes' only when, they were well on their way toward marriage.”45 The negotiation of sexual limits, that is, happened within the larger context of engagement. Young men showed no hesitation in setting up their fiancées as their consciences. “Your will shall be my law,” wrote one man. “You shall help to cleanse me,” said another. The correspondence of a New England youth, Elias Nason, with his sweetheart, Mira Bigelow, shows the feeling that lay behind men’s desire to share the burden of sexual restraint. Dur­ ing one absence, Elias confessed: “Oh Mi how intensely do I long to see you—to feel you—to put these veiy hands . . . in your bosom—that soft delicious bosom . . . I shall tear you to pieces.” Elias knew that these feelings needed control, and he knew how he wanted them controlled. He wrote to Mira: “My passions are terrible and none but you could master them .” The division of labor was clear—men expected to be the sexual aggressors, women were supposed to contain their aggression.46

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It is impossible to determine how often this strategy failed m restrain­ ing couples. There is evidence—sometimes oblique—of specific bour­ geois couples engaging in coitus before marriage.47 Since the bridal pregnancy rate among white Americans did not fall much below fifteen percent during the nineteenth century, it seems safe to guess that at least some middle-class Northerners who left no private records were engaging m premarital intercourse. There is no evidence, though, to suggest that couples who defied the official norms predominated among the middle class. Indeed, some of the data suggest that the official code of restraint may have had a powerful effect on behavior. The most ex­ haustive study of the subject has been made by historian of courtship Ellen Rothman. Through her research in letters and diaries, she found that middle-class couples, starting in the early nineteenth century, de­ fined romantic love "so that it included sexual attraction and gratification but excluded coitus.” Rothman calls this change in customs “the inven­ tion of petting” and asserts that “intercourse was posted as not only off limits’ but as an altogether separate territory, accessible only to married people.”48 A striking piece of anecdotal evidence from the end of the nineteenth century supports Rothmans contention. In Henry Seidel Canby’s ac­ count of the male pursuit of chippies, he recalled that the “not too deter­ mined assault” of the young men was "restrained by a moral taboo on se­ duction and fear of results if one went too far.” These boys limited them ­ selves to “what the next generation called ‘petting.’”49 If a male youth— in this setting where he was unconstrained by bonds of class and where he was out to vent his sexual aggressions—still found himself inhibited by “a moral taboo on seduction,” then that taboo must have taken deep root in his conscience. The calls for male purity did not prevent petting, nor did they prevent some young men from pressing the sexual bound­ aries of even the “nicest” young women, but the doctrine of self-control apparently worked as a counterforce to the pressures for sexual aggres­ sion. If young men could resist the temptation to intercourse even m the most inviting situations, then they had learned to curb their impulses. Such behavior represented a compromise between sexual purity and sexual conquest. Engagement—a testing period in many respects—offered its sharpest challenge to a couple m the area of sexual adjustment. Young men (and young women) harbored conflicting passions and fears about sex; to reach an understanding based on such deep ambivalence wps difficult and occasionally impossible. For the man, the sexual negotiations with his fiancée posed crucial questions. How well did his conscience func-

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tion? How effective was he at enlisting the aid of a woman to control or focus his passions? And could he do all this without losing the aggressive thrust which he needed to succeed as a breadwinner? In short, could he purify his impulses without destroying them? No two bridegrooms could answer these questions in precisely the same way, but diere was no doubt that the sexual negotiations of a betrothed couple laid open fun­ damental issues for young men. These were issues that would be crucial to their marnages, and crucial to their manhood.

Chapter 7

M A R R IA G E

■HE modem wedding ceremony is so elaborate and so fully en­ veloped by myth and custom that it seems to be centuries old. The cere­ mony as we know it, however, did not exist in 1800. Northerners of that day married in a civil ceremony which followed Puritan tradition. Per­ formed by a local magistrate, the wedding was held in a private home before a few witnesses. In the world of 1800, marriage created a house­ hold, which was the basic unit of society. The community had a vital in­ terest in the stability of every marriage, and so each wedding united a couple in mutual duty and bound it solemnly to the community through the presence of legal authority.1 During the first third of the nineteenth century, a new ceremony emerged. It focused not on the place of marriage in the community but on the two individuals being wed. The bride and groom stood together at the center of the ceremony. They dressed m clothing they chose espe­ cially for themselves and for the occasion. Each of them was flanked by a few attendants of the same age and sex—the people who were closest to them m their own individual worlds of friendship and support. Larger numbers of relatives, friends, and associates formed an audience to watch the bride and groom in their special moment. A minister presided over the ceremony, which—by the 1830s—was usually held in a church. Instead of invoking the legal authority of the community over this mar­ riage, he united the hearts and souls of two individuals into one couple.2 The new focus of the wedding ceremony reflected the new focus of

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marriage. In the nineteenth century, matrimony was viewed increasingly as a union of two unique individuals. As this ideal gathered strength, the actual occurrence of intimacy within mamage became more common, but it never became the dominant experience of middle-class husbands and wives. The ideal was too difficult for many people to achieve, and the social conditions of nineteenth-century marriage—the distribution of power and the separation of spheres—proved too much of a barrier.

Concepts of Marriage Nineteenth-centuiy marriage, with its emphasis on the individual hus­ band and wife, was based on two different ideas about the fundamental nature of the bond. In one of these concepts, wedlock represented a union of two persons. Though this was an old idea, it had new resonance in a world where the individual had become the basic unit of society. The second concept was one of mamage as a power relationship based on male dominance. In the era of hierarchy that was now fading, this second idea of mamage had been the prevailing one. During the nine­ teenth century, the idea of mamage as a union of individuals mounted steadily in importance. It grew up alongside the hierarchical concept of mamage without really supplanting it. The two could be quite compati­ ble—but during the century, as people began to develop the egalitarian possibilities of marital union, the two concepts sometimes came into conflict. In an era when love was a m atter of full and lasting sympathy, mar­ riage was easily cast in the same terms. The “right idea of mamage,” ac­ cording to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was a bond of “deep fervent love and sympathy.” And it took only one intellectual step to turn fervent sympa­ thy into total umon. The letters of Richard Cabot, a young doctor, to his future wife, Ella Lyman, show how one might take this step. “All that concerns you,” wrote Cabot in 1888, “I want to have concern me too . . . I want to see your world and have you see mine.” Such complete empa­ thy made one lover an extension of the other, in action as well as in thought. As Cabot said, “I want . . . your certainty of my interest and sympathy and love for you and your concerns so that you will never need to stop to consider even before you call on me for anything I can and ought to do.”3 Thus, the common notions of love and empathy created a constant pressure toward oneness. This notion of unity had roots in religious be­ lief. Men and women of the nineteenth century saw “holy matrimony” as

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13 1

a sacred arena where man and woman practiced the Christian virtues of love and self-denial, where spiritual union transcended selfishness and lust. The shift from civil ceremonies to church weddings made a state­ ment: marriage was a hallowed union, not merely a business contract. Daniel Wise, an author of advice to young women, defined his ideal of matrimony in spiritual terms: “Marriage, properly viewed, is a union of kindred minds,—a blending of two souls in mutual, holy affection,—and not merely or chiefly a union of persons.”4 Even the most secular of people spoke m terms of union when they described the ideal marriage. In 1809, Massachusetts bachelor George Tuckerman described with envy the marriage of his newlywed brother, Joseph. Writing to their sister, George pronounced Joseph “a fortunate man” and said of the new couple: “Their thoughts, and feelings, disposi­ tions and inclinations, and almost every throb of the Heart, appear to move in unison.” George asked wistfully: “Am 1 ever to ever to enjoy anything like this—[?]” Tuckerman s yearning expressed the dominant ideal of wedlock in his century.5 Still, it is important to stress how the ideal of union rested on the foundation of nineteenth-centuiy concepts of gender. Charles Van Hise stated the gender issue clearly in a letter to his fiancée, Alice Ring. “Man and woman will love,” he wrote, “because the mind of one is the com­ plement of the other.” Thus, when Van Hise said that each lover “harmo­ nizes the life of the other” and that there are “deep, sweet harmonies” between them, he meant that love brought together natures of veiy dif­ ferent construction and made of them an agreeable whole.6 Van Hise was writing about two individuals who were complementary opposites in many ways. The notion of woman and man as creatures with opposing qualities was, after all, the very essence of nineteenth-century bourgeois thinking about gender. Marital oneness was more than a merger of two kindred spirits—it was a union of opposites. The gender differences which blended in marriage were familiar ones. Midwesterner Champion Chase explained to his fiancée that “true female character was perfectly adapted and designed by its influence often exerted to soften and beautify the wild rough and turbulent spirit of man.” But men saw marriage as more than a way to make up for their lack of self-restraint. They saw it as a way to remedy their own clumsi­ ness in matters of love and tenderness. One man wrote that women pos­ sessed “affection and all the finer sensibilities of the heart and soul . needed for comfort and consolation.” Men imagined that they could turn to women for a kind of nurturant understanding that other males would not provide. As the hero of Francis Parkmans novel Vassall Mor-

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ton put it: “I would as soon confess to my horse [as to a man].” Men turned to women to make them whole, to provide them with means of living and being which they believed they could not provide for them­ selves.7 Some women resisted parts of this doctrine of complementary traits. In particular, they opposed the idea that they should take on moral bur­ dens for men when they were not certain they could manage the same burdens for themselves. Augusta Elliot, a young New York woman, scorned her fiancés attempts to place her on a pedestal: “As to my being your superior m every respect and my mind’s being of a more lofty order than yours— I don’t believe one word o f it.” In general, though, women believed with men that the traits of the two sexes were complementaiy and that the union of husband and wife created a whole out of opposite parts. Maiy Poor, in letters to her husband, expressed the belief that marriage could remedy her defects. “How feeble is a family without a head,” she wrote. “Females have intuition but are destitute of judge­ ment.” She admitted once to feeling like an “unprotected female” when Heniy was gone and complained during another absence that she yearned “for somebody to lean on.” Maiy Poor believed in marriage as a union of two distinctly different lands of people.8 The concept of marriage as a union of two people was a romantic— even spiritual—notion. The other dominant view, which envisioned wedlock as a relationship of power and duty, was decidedly earthbound. As different as these two conceptions were, though, they shared one im­ portant quality: both rested on common beliefs about the fundamental traits of manhood and womanhood. These common assumptions about gender kept the two dominant concepts of marriage closely linked even when they seemed to point toward veiy different sorts of relationships. The structure of power and duty in mamage, as nineteenth-century men and women thought ôf it, began with basic characteristics. The be­ lief that women were clean and domestic suited them by nature to main­ tain a home, and the assumption that they were pious and pure fitted them to raise the children and act as a conscience to their husbands. A man’s duties in marriage were envisioned by a similar process. Since men were considered naturally active and courageous, it followed read­ ily that they should go out into the world to play the role of breadwinner. Byron Caldwell Smith, a young college professor, stated the basic expec­ tation: “A home is the work of husband and wife, but the unequal posi­ tions of women and men make the husband responsible for the support of this home.”9 Among the middle classes, supporting a home meant something

Marriage

extra, though. It meant not only food, clothing, and shelter, but a certain degree of luxurious ease. When, in 1845, Alexander Rice explained to his beloved, Augusta McKim, why he was not ready to marry her, he phrased his argument in terms of comfort, not support. “Would it be showing any affection,” Rice asked, “to take you from your present com­ fortable home to a situation of less comfort and one of privation and anx­ iety to us both[?]” If he could have “[settled] down in some lucrative and comfortable situation” with Augusta at the moment, he would have, but Alexander had neither the money nor the job to support a middle-class way of life. As bourgeois advice writers put it, young men should not marry until they could provide for a family “in circumstances of com­ fort.”10 Beyond this sex-typed division of labor, there lay another vital ques­ tion: In this marital arrangement, who held ultimate authority? Middleclass men and women had no doubt as to the answer. James Jameson, an early nineteenth-century writer on the family, put it flatly: “In the do­ mestic constitution the superiority vests in the husband; he is the head, the lawgiver, the ruler . . . he is to direct, not indeed without taking counsel with his wife, but to his decision the wife should yield.” By giv­ ing the power m marriage to the husband, middle-class culture was pass­ ing on a traditional arrangement. The very language Jameson used be­ trays his adherence to the time-honored notion of the man as the head of the household.11 There was another traditional source on which the husbands author­ ity rested: the Bible. The letters of John Kirk illustrate the powerful role the Bible still played in the nineteenth-century understanding of mar­ riage. An abolitionist and an evangelical Christian, Kirk turned to the words of Saint Paul to support his views on man’s dominion over his wife. Writing to his cousin Sally in 1853, Kirk referred to her husband as her “liege lord, to whom the Holy Apostle enjoins you to submit m all things.” He then quoted Paul to explain why submission was necessaiy. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”12 O f course, most middle-class men m the nineteenth century were not evangelicals like John Kirk. Still, the Bible was the best-known and most widely read book in the United States, and the women of the middle class knew its precepts even better than the men. Before a woman de­ fied her husband or dealt with him on equal terms, she had to struggle with the force of biblical injunction and with the centuries of marital tra­ dition that were justified by those injunctions. While women generally knew the Bible better than men, letters in-

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voicing the Bible or tradition to support the husband’s power were more often written by men. Men had more to gain by this arrangement, and so they had reason to issue reminders about it from time to time. Women more than men focused their sole attention on marriage as a union of persons or souls. This conception of marriage offered a woman the hope of deep satisfaction. As for the conception of marriage as a duty-bound relationship of power, women responded in varying ways that suited their personal needs and situations: with Christian submission, with quiet subversion, or—more rarely—with open struggle. How husbands and wives actually lived out the two dominant conceptions of marriage is itself a complex subject.

Married Life: Roles and Realities Henry Poor, the business publicist, believed that women gave up every­ thing when they married.13 This fact helped to form the basis for the in­ equality in nineteenth-century marriage. By marrying, a woman lost her name, her home, and, m most cases, the control of her property. She surrendered her social identity and put in its place a new one: essen­ tially, that of her husband. Much of who she was became submerged in who her husband was. Young men and women knew this even when they were single. A Connecticut law student, George Younglove Cutler, wrote in his diary that “besides leaving everything else to unite themselves to one man they [women] subject themselves to his authority.”14The structure of the marriage relationship also empowered the husband to determine his wife’s social status. Elizabeth Hill, a young Ohio woman, realized that “a lady could not shape the future . . . she went down or up as her husband did . . . he led die way, made the reputation, the fortune of both.”15 A man’s power to shape a wife’s fortune gave him the upper hand in decid­ ing matters of mutual concern. We can see this process at work by exam­ ining two domestic issues: where the family would live, and who would manage its finances. Choice of residence was an issue even before the wedding. The expe­ rience of an engaged couple, Augusta McKim and Alexander Hamilton Rice, shows how a man used his breadwinner’s role to make this decision his own. As Alexander’s college graduation approached, he accepted a job in Virginia. Augusta, his fiancée, lived in Boston. She did not want him to move so far away and accused him of being “too ambitious for worldly distinction.” He replied by pointing out to her that a good first

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job was important to his future, and that the position in Virginia was the best that he could find. Then, he reminded her that he was the “one upon whose arm you are to lean thro’ life, upon whose reputation your own will also rest and upon whose effects your happiness as well as his own will mainly depend.” As long as the wife depended on her husband’s economic support and all that came with it, he could treat his needs as those of the entire family and demand prime consideration.16 The same balance of need and power existed at every stage of a middle-class marriage, so men continued to make the decisions about place of residence. Charles Van Hise pondered this issue after a train ride in 1891. He had overheard a conversation between two women re­ turning to their bleak Kansas farms after visiting their families back east. “Thus it is and always will be,” reflected Van Hise. “These two women have left home and friends and the pleasant and beautiful East, each to follow a man to fortune.” Van Hise’s suggestion that this was eternally true shows how deeply people assumed that men must inevitably choose the family’s place of residence.17 Family finance was another area in which a mans right to decide was undoubted. Men, we know, wrangled with their fiancées over the ex­ pense of setting up a household. Typically, the future bride did most of the shopping herself, but, as long as the groom provided the money, her purchases needed his approval. This pattern continued into marriage. The Poor family of New York City and Massachusetts dealt with earning and spending in a revealing way. Henry signed blank checks and gave them to his wife; she then used them to buy goods and services for the household. This system provided Mary with daily flexibility but left Henry with final oversight. The example of the Poor family also shows the persistence of this form of gender arrangement. For all his acumen as a business analyst, Henry turned out to be a thoughtless manager of household finances. He was slow to pay bills, he often put too little money in the family checking account, and he gave Mary too few signed checks for the pur­ chases he expected her to make. Maiy protested this behavior fre­ quently, but she never moved to take over Henry’s role. Although he demonstrated his lack of fitness for the task and even showed an “un­ manly” want of rationality in the process, it was unthinkable that he should be replaced.18 Beyond these specific tasks, the larger pattern of mundane duties and behaviors in a marriage reflected male power. The expenence of Will and Elizabeth Cattell shows how this power expressed itself in the lives of one couple. Will was a minister, a college president, and an official of

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the Presbyterian Church, while Elizabeth was the organizing force that made Will’s professional life possible. A letter from Will to their son James makes this dynamic clear. Writing on a Sunday morning, Will noted that the hour had come when Elizabeth (“dear Mama,” as he re­ ferred to her) always told him to hurry so they would not be late for church. A few sentences later, he interrupted himself: ‘Tes!—there’s the call from dear Mama!! So goodbye till after church:—and Mama is call­ ing to H any W ould you see that Papa has his cuffs!’”19 This telepathy in the Cattells’ marriage took place on the common ground of Will’s needs. It was Elizabeth who knew that Will wanted a re­ minder about the time before church, it was she who knew that he would forget his cuffs. She monitored his health, his work hours, and his sleeping habits as well. As she said, “I know you so well .. you need someone to watch you.”20 For his part. Will accepted his wife’s help with childlike passivity (“dear Mama”). He waited happily for her call, instead of stirring himself to activity at the nght time; he counted on her re­ minder about his cuffs instead of taking his own responsibility for them. While tiie details of these interactions played themselves out through the individual personalities of Elizabeth and Will Cattell, the fact that their thoughts merged around Will’s needs is a sign of the power m the husband’s role. A woman depended on her husband’s income, and she cleared a path for him through the mundane business of life so that he could concentrate on his work. Yet, as much as patterns and expectations in marriage were heavily skewed in favor of male power, those factors did not determine the out­ come of any one decision, nor did they set the habits of authority m any given marriage. Rather, they established conventional limits within which the umque needs and distinctive traits o f particular wives and husbands determined their own routines for the exercise of power. Perhaps the most revealing statements on this subject come from passing remarks made by husbands and wives about decisions m their marriage—remarks that are tossed off so casually that they suggest a de­ scription of daily habit. In 1848, Theodore Russell, a prominent Boston lawyer, wrote to his father about the vacation he was going to take. “I suppose I am little tired out,” he wrote. “I dislike to go away just now but my wife presses me hard to do so—and I have concluded to.”21 This brief comment shows three revealing facts about power and choice in the Russell’s marriage. First, Sarah Russell felt free to give her husband advice. Secondly, Theodore listened to her advice and took it seriously. Thud, the ultimate power to decide lay with Theodore. She may have

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pressed him hard to take a vacation, but he was the one who “con­ cluded” to do it. William Dali, a scientist m Washington, D.C., wrote to his mother in 1887 about a job in Massachusetts which she sought for him but he did not want. He started by mentioning the poor pay that came with the job, and then he mentioned his wife's wishes: “I am sure that, unless the cir­ cumstances were very favorable,. . . Nettie would veiy strongly oppose leaving Washington where all her fnends and some of her relatives are fixed. The m atter would have to be managed with great tact so far as she is concerned.”32 The last sentence is ambiguous; it is not clear whether William would have to manage Nettie tactfully, or whether she would have to manage the announcement of the move tactfully with friends and relatives. Whichever way one reads that sentence, William evidently took his wife’s opinions into account in making major family decisions— but those opinions were one factor (and not necessarily the most impor­ tant) in a decision he would make. To put this m somewhat more abstract terms, social expectation gave husbands most of the power to make decisions for the couple and the family. Depending on the individuals and their own unique needs and arrangements, a wife could have an influence on her husbands deci­ sions. The degree of influence could vary from minimal to overwhelm­ ing; the influence of most middle-class wives fell well between those two extremes. Even in cases where the wife’s influence was overwhelming, however, she had to overwhelm her husband because he was the one empowered to make the decisions. It may be misleading to characterize a wife’s influence over her hus­ band m general terms, because her influence probably varied from one specific issue to another. The marriage of Mary and Ebenezer Gay pro­ vides a good example of this. In matters of family finance, Ebenezer made the decisions without much apparent influence from Mary. Their correspondence with their children reflects this pattern: the chief reason Ebenezer had for writing his children was to oversee their finances, but money was a minor topic in Mary’s letters to her children. W here place of residence was concerned, Mary exerted some influence over her hus­ band. At one point in their marriage, she lobbied him heavily for a move to Boston from the little coastal town of Hingham, Massachusetts; al­ though her wishes did not prevail, they did force his serious considera­ tion of a subject he did not wish to consider at all. In matters of child-rearing, Ebenezer was not simply influenced by Mary—he ceded most of his power to her. In 1827, when their grown

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son Charles became embroiled in a disciplinary m atter that threatened his naval career, Mary proposed to her husband that he go the next morning to Boston m the hope of saving the situation. Ebenezer thought that “there was no use m going,” but, m the middle of the night “when no sleep visited us,” Mary made up her mind to go herself. Ebenezer did not utter a word of protest against her decision. As long as he did not have to go himself, he was quite content to give Mary her own way in re­ sponding to a cnsis with their children. So it went in the Gays’ marriage. Depending on the issue at hand, Mary might have no influence, a moderate influence, or even an out­ right grant of power. Still, the influence was influence on her husband’s decisions and the grant of power was a grant from him.23 What happened when men ceded large amounts of power to- their wives? Some people viewed this practice with tolerance and a few even admired it.24 More generally, social convention worked to discourage such violations of prevailing norms. In his diary, New Englander John Barnard denounced a woman who “told me how she managed her hus­ band and a great deal of nonsense which was interesting only as it was not pleasing.” Barnard asserted that this woman was “sowing the seeds of strife.” While Barnard criticized only the wife in this case, some men also belittled husbands who let their wives make the decisions. In 1846, Massachusetts shoe manufacturer Arial Bragg described a couple in which the man took orders from his wife. Bragg wrote that “she wore the breeches, as the vulgar saying is.” That phrase is revealing m many ways. Most obviously, it points out the fact of a gender role re­ versal with the most dramatic symbolism possible. The saying poked fun at women, especially in an era when women could never wear pants. It also degraded the husband. The word the m “the breeches” stresses the notion that there was one pair of pants to be worn in a marriage. If the husband was not wearing the pants, then he must have been wearing the dress. The clear meaning is that the man was a woman, which implied that he was foolish, confused, and (like a woman) not worthy of respect. He was, in short, a contemptible figure.25 In the context of nineteenth-century gender meanings, there was a second layer of contempt in saying that a man did not wear the breeches in his marriage, as it recalled the attire he had worn m earliest boyhood. At that point, he was small and powerless. He was dominated by other people, most often his mother, and was dressed in a fashion that made him indistinguishable from a little girl. Thus, to say that a man’s wife wore the breeches (and Bragg’s use of the phrase makes clear that it was a common saying) was not simply to belittle him by calling him a

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woman; it was to call him a little boy, which meant, in turn, a powerless creature who resembled a little girl. This popular phrase hit a man in many spots at once. It served as a forceful reminder that a man made himself contemptible if he let his wife exercise the power in their mar­ nage. Thus it was that nonns of proper gender behavior were enforced. Yet there were counterpressures toward allowing women greater influence in a marriage. When a husband was usually gone from the household and the wife was there running it, men must have found it difficult to avoid turning over power to their wives. Moreover, the ideal of union in marnage may have encouraged men to share their power with women. A man who identified deeply with his wife was bound to appreciate her needs and her point of view more than a man who was content to be dis­ tant from his wife. Such empathy on a husbands part might readily yield a process of marital decision making in which the wife took an active part. But the social force that played the largest role in increasing a wife’s influence was the nse m woman’s moral stature during the nineteenth century. The veiy way in which young men pleaded with their fiancées for moral guidance indicates that the new valuation of a woman’s charac­ ter gave her increased leverage in dealing with her husband. The wife’s replacement of the husband as the parent who would mold their chil­ dren’s character offered her another source of power within the mar­ nage. The growing power—or at least the decline m submissiveness—that was expected of wives showed publicly in certain key settings. In divorce proceedings, the moral stature of women’s sphere provided new, effec­ tive grounds for attacking a husband’s performance of his duties. By the middle of the nineteenth century, witnesses were testifying that male vice posed a threat to the moral sanctity as well as the economic stability of their homes. Such charges built the foundation for successful divorce suits of wife against husband. Meanwhile, the female reform societies that arose in the 1830s pub­ licly attacked the behavior of many men toward their wives. The New York Female Reform Society, through its newspaper, The Advocate, charged some husbands with a “tyranny . . m the HOME department, where lordly man . . rules his trembling subjects with a rod of iron, con­ scious of entire impunity.” The assault continued: “Instead of regarding his wife as a help-mate, .. an equal sharer in his joys and sorrows” such a husband exercised “a despotism which seems to be modeled precisely after that of the Autocrat of Russia.” The fact that women dared to make

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these claims in public—and used a model of emotional equality in mar­ riage as part of their case—suggests that women were gaining new power in dealings with their husbands. But the fact that female reform­ ers found so many tyrannical husbands to attack shows that the bulk of authority within middle-class marriage still lay with the man.26 The power relationship between husband and wife seemed at once changed and unchanging. In describing spousal roles under the new domestic-relations law of the nineteenth centuiy, legal historian Michael Grossberg has noted that courts and commentators came to recognize “separate legal spheres in the home” with “enlarged . . . rights” for the wife and mother. Yet there was no doubt as to who held the final power. "Patriarchy,” writes Grossberg, “retained its legal primacy.” While a new “domesticated concept of patriarchy. . . distinguished between male au­ thority to govern the household and female responsibility to maintain it and nurture its wards,” such new distinctions “perpetuated patriarchy in republican society.”27 In the law, in printed counsel, and in the actual behavior of men and women, the nineteenth century marked a change but not a revolution m the power relations of husband and wife. Man’s primacy in the home was modified and circumscribed but not denied. All parties recognized the man as head of the household—and one dimension of his power was his dominion over his wife.

Married Life: Alienation and Distance If married couples varied widely in how they lived out the concept of marriage as a power relationship, it stands to reason that they would dif­ fer in fulfilling the less traditional, more ethereal concept of marriage as union of husband and wife. Couples spread themselves across a broad spectrum from total alienation at one end to warm, empathetic, abiding intimacy at the other. To gam some sense of the ways men and women sought to fulfill the ideal of marital union, we need to look at different points on this spectrum. Total alienation is an easier experience to identify than enveloping in­ timacy. Divorce and abandonment are as close to absolute statements as one can make in a human relationship, and recurring violence makes its own chilling comment on alienation. All of those signs of marital es­ trangement existed in the middle-class world of the nineteenth century. There was certainly physical abuse in some marriages, though its pres­ ence as a part of bourgeois life appears in the source materials largely in

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murky shadows. In an era when divorce was rare, abandonment punctu­ ated the end of a marriage more frequently. A man s departure could take the form of an utter disappearance, of the virtual abandonment (or separation) that could result when a man moved west, or in the absence of the husband who rarely came home except to sleep at night.28 Most middle-class couples (even those with great emotional distance between husband and wife) maintained an active working relationship that included regular daily contact. The marriage of Ebenezer and Mary Gay provides a clear example of a couple who played their roles faith­ fully but with little warmth and scant affection. Theirs was the most common form of alienation in wedded life. The offspring of two prominent Massachusetts families,29 Mary and Ebenezer married m 1800 and spent their forty-two years together living separate lives that were bound by law, custom, and a sense of duty. As with most husbands and wives, Mary expressed happiness at the start of her marriage. Less than a year after their wedding, Mary referred to Ebenezer as “a friend nearer than all the world beside,” but, even as she praised him, she conveyed her awareness of the painful results of a bad marnage: “Had Heaven in this friend given me other than that I have most happily found, the sun would not have shown on a wretch more miserable.”30 After this early letter, Mary Gay offered few words of affection for her husband. She appreciated his hard work, respected his efforts to support their brood of ten children, and showed sympathy for his feelings at times when his life was difficult, but the spark of affection and the warmth of companionship were absent from her writing about him. In­ stead, she complained that he tracked mud across the clean carpet, and she struggled with him over their life in the dying port town of Hingham. Generally, they were yokemates without intimacy. He stayed out of her way when it came to the children, and she left money matters to him. As for the mud, Ebenezer usually left that outside the house, along with his interests and worldly concerns.31 While Ebenezer Gay built his life around work, Mary built hers around her children. She fought fiercely to give them every advantage that a lawyers income could provide, and they in turn were her primary source of love and happiness. Even in her sixties, with the children grown and mostly gone, Marys offspring were at the center of her life. After a long illness m 1841, she consoled herself with the fact that “I have had kind children to alleviate [my troubles]—and I think now if the weather should be pleasant even I might gain some strength and not be so troublesome to my dear children.” She went on, “I sometimes have

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wept over the wreck of what I was—but [my children] decorate my chamber with what grows [that] they can find and I try to be satisfied with my pnson—for such after all it is.”32 Two points need to be made about this statement. One is that Mary Gay’s “pnson” seems to be not just her sickroom but her life. She had become a troublesome, dependent person, full of despair, a “wreck of what [she] was.” At best, her marriage had not lightened her feelings; at worst, it was the structure of her pnson. The second point is that Mary Gay was still m am ed to Ebenezer when she wrote this letter, but one would not guess it from the contents. It was her children who cared for her, bnghtened her room, provided her with strength in her time of need. She never mentions Ebenezer—not as a helper, not as a problem, not in any way. Mary Gay constructed her world around her children. H er husband was irrelevant. The m am ed relationship of Mary and Ebenezer Gay is nicely sum­ marized by her response to a small professional victory in his later life. After serving for many years on the board of a local bank, Ebenezer an­ nounced at age sixty-eight that he did not wish to be reelected. His col­ leagues reelected him anyway, and he glowed with pride. Mary reacted with a sympathy and respect that nearly forty years of drab marnage had not shaken: “I am sure [if he hadn’t been reelected] he would have been far less happy than now, when he feels as if he was still of importance to the community . . . the truth is there is no one to make good his place.” She also observed that “it would have been unfortunate for himself and not well for us had he retired from the business—his time would have been a heavy burthen.” Mary clearly meant that her husband’s time would be a heavy burden not just for him but for those at home who would have to cope with his restless, unaccustomed presence. It is also revealing that Mary Gay mea­ sured the effects of Ebenezer’s retirem ent on “him self’ and “us,” thus dividing the family not between generations, sexes, or husband and wife, but between the man she married and the domestic unit she constructed with her children. Ebenezer and Maiy Gay stayed together out of mu­ tual sympathy, respect, and, above all, a sense of duty. Their mamage was a construct of laws and obligations more than a haven for nearness and warmth.33 One final comment about the Gays tells a good deal about men’s place m a distant marriage: we know about the Gays through the testi­ mony of the wife. In the nearly half a century that Ebenezer and Maiy were together, he rarely wrote to her or about her. His cryptic Yankee

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phrases were reserved for matters of money and business, even in family correspondence. This seems typical in distant, duty-bound marriages. The wives—trained to explore their states of being and express their feelings—recounted painful experiences. The husbands retreated into silence.34 And into activity. A man with an unsatisfying marriage could withdraw into a variety of activities. In the antebellum years, long hours spent at the tavern and the coffee-house with colleagues, clients, and competitors mixed plea­ sure liberally with business. Debating societies stimulated the mind. Masonic gatherings stirred the spirit, and both kept husbands away from home. In the last third of the century, this organized camaraderie played an even larger role in mens lives. Athletic clubs sprang up in growing cities all over the country. Fraternal lodges proliferated to the point where, by the turn of the century, their membership comprised oneeighth to one-quarter of the adult male population; the proportion of members among middle-class men was even higher. At the same time, elite men’s clubs with roots in the pre-Civil War era enjoyed a great ex­ pansion of membership in the last third of the century, and new ones ap­ peared in every large city. These clubs included in their ranks many leading members of the upper middle class. Numerous men belonged to more than one of these organizations, and each membership repre­ sented extra time away from home.35 The importance of clubs, lodges, and taverns as alternatives to mar­ riage lay not only m time spent beyond the company of ones wife, but also in the structure and content of the new institutions. Recent histori­ ans have pointed out that fraternal orders posed “an alternative to do­ mesticity.” One scholar, Maiy Ann Clawson, has studied the form and the ideology of these lodges and observed that fratemalism was based on “the same overarching metaphor of the family” as the domestic model, but that it created “fictive fraternal bonds” in place of the blood ties and marriage bonds of the home. Historian Mark Carnes analyzed the con­ tent of fraternal ritual and found that, at one level, it had the function of “effacing” a mans real kin (especially mothers and wives), replacing them with an all-male family that provided love, intimacy, nurture, and support. Wives recognized their competitors, and they organized a na­ tional campaign against the fraternal movement:36 Mens clubs, too, posed a self-conscious alternative to home. As a magazine article noted in 1876, men went to their clubs to “seek the comforts of a home.” A club provided domestic advantages without the confining responsibility of home and hearth:

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Each member is as much at home as if he were m his own castle; the building . is kept with the same neatness, and exactness, and comfort as a private dwelling. Every member is a master, without any of the cares or troubles of a master. He is always obeyed with alacrity He can come when he pleases, and stay away as long as he pleases.37 Club relationships deepened the appeal of the club as an alternative to marriage. A critic put the m atter directly: “Every club is a blow against m arriage,. . . offering, as it does, the surroundings of a home without women or the ties of a family.”38 From the club or lodge, a man could seek as much or as little emotional involvement as he wanted. To some men, an arrangement like this was more attractive than wedded life. But these were not the only modes of escape from wife and wedlock. Men often hid from marriage in their work. It was a legitimate pastime, one that most middle-class husbands enjoyed. More than that, men had a marital duty to work, and this soothed men’s consciences even as the work kept them from their wives. O f course, men worked hard for rea­ sons other than marital disaffection, but there were certainly those who worked constantly because they liked it better than spending time with their wives (Ebenezer Gay comes to mind here). In spite of widespread male adherence to the belief that home was a shelter from the world of work, the sheltering role was reversed in the lives of some husbands. In an era when romantic love was exalted, when die pressure for a happy home life was strong, and when young men sought marnage so ardently, why did husbands pursue so many avenues away from their wives and homes? The simplest response is that men were freer to do so than women. Men were the ones whom duty called away from home; they were the ones on whom the pressing daily business of child care rested lightly; they were the ones experienced with aggression, with ad­ venture, with the habit of risky initiative; they were the ones encouraged to cherish independence and chafe at restriction. Opportunity and expe­ rience combined to make men more likely than their wives to retreat from marriage. These were not the only reasons, however. Wives were more comfort­ able and experienced than husbands with the language of intimacy and with the skills needed to mend and sustain a relationship. In addition, marriage loomed larger in a woman’s social identity, so she felt a greater sense of responsibility for it than a man did. All of this can help us understand why, given a problem in a marriage, men were more likely than women to retreat. That still leaves the ques-

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tion of why married people wanted to retreat at all. What were the sources of this estrangement? Some of the answers are obvious and per­ haps universal. Any system of marriage is bound to produce poor matches. Even where individuals choose their own partners and are wedded for love, there is no way to predict compatibility or lifelong pat­ terns of personal change. The nineteenth-century middle class certainly had its share of mismatches. In different places and times, though, these mismatches take differ­ ent forms and are the product of varying cultural pressures. The chief pressures in the northern United States were ones that, by now, are fa­ miliar to us. The dominant belief structure presented the sexes in sharply polarized terms: women were pious, pure, submissive, domestic; men were active, independent, rational, dominant. This neat division of traits, in turn, affected personal development and shaped views of the opposite sex so powerfully that it undermined the common ground be­ tween the sexes and raised barriers to understanding. Women came to find the company of men rough, loud, and demanding, while men found female company tepid, restrained, and excessively refined. Even without the formal institutions of fraternal orders and men’s clubs, men and women (especially after the days of courtship) chose to segregate them­ selves socially. Henry Seidel Canby described this with clarity in his memoirs. He said that a typical dinner party unfolded in this way when the meal was done: Afterwards, without that separation for coffee practised in more formal societies, the guests flowed into the living room and even in flowing sepa­ rated into austral and oriental currents while the tides of talk rose and took on different notes. With an obvious relief the men gathered around the fireplace dropping facetiousness, while the women’s conversation .. sought human values around my mother’s coffee table.39 With their values, aspirations, sensibilities, and social worlds so differ­ ent, many men and women must have found it hard to meet on common ground. One cultural distinction that played a special role in the estrangement of married men from their wives was the treatm ent of women as moral exemplars. The social expectation that marriage would help a man con­ trol his passions was largely a statement about a woman’s restraining in­ fluence on a man. This expectation comes through clearly m a letter from General William Pender to his wife, Fanny, during the Civil War. Pender wrote: “Whenever I find my mind wandering upon bad and sm-

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ful thoughts, I try to think of my good and pure wife, and they leave me at once. My dear wife you have no idea of the excellent opinion I have of your goodness and sweetness. You are truly my good Angel.” Though some women felt uneasy with their moral deification, the weight of cul­ tural and spousal pressure made it easy for wives to fill the role of the virtuous monitor. Harriet Beecher Stowe told her husband, Calvin, that she saw the “terrible temptations [that] lie m the way of your sex” and gave him frequent advice on matters of sexuality, religion, and personal habits. Calvin received his wife’s counsel m virtue with respect and grati­ tude if not always enthusiasm.40 Here lay the rub. For men accepted their wives’ moral governorship and often encouraged it, but that did not mean that they enjoyed it. The voice of conscience, after all, is not an easy voice to love. By insisting that their wives monitor their progress in virtue, men threw an obstacle in the way of marital intimacy and affection. “A man must get out of drawing room society mto some other where he can put his mmd so to speak in a shooting jacket and slippers,” said one elite gentleman.41 An­ other compared favorably “the social ease and freedom from restraint” of male company with “the refined charm of female society.”42 Men ex­ pected—even demanded—virtue of women, but they found it dull, con­ fining, and probably disturbing to their own feelings of self-worth. These conditions did not always produce a fundamental alienation for men m married life. Just as boys fled domestic restraint in the daytime and came home to seek love and nurture at night, so there were men who cherished the freedom of male worlds even as they maintained a warm and lasting affection for their wives. This combination of love and separation was a common one in middle-class marnage—a kind of mid­ point between alienation and intimacy.

Married Life: Love and Separation The economic changes that swept the United States in the first third of the nineteenth centuiy had a direct impact on the structure of marriage. We have seen how those changes moved the work of middle-class men out of the home and how men followed their work, with the result that adult males were often scarce figures in the household. The growth of national markets and the. revolution in transportation had another effect, as the business tn p became increasingly common and kept men away from home for days and weeks at a time. This sort of absence was less common than the daily trip to the office, but it produced a larger bulk of

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historical evidence, because it required that husbands and wives write to each other if they wished to stay in touch. These extended absences throw into bold relief the issues raised in a marriage by the regular sepa­ ration of husband and wife. Such separations, in the context of a loving marnage and a work-obsessed manhood, created a form of wedded life that was full of contradiction. A case in point is the marriage of Henry and Mary Poor. Heniy was a young lawyer when he and Mary Pierce, a ministers daughter from Brookline, Massachusetts, fell in love. Henrys affection was undeniably deep. After a long visit from Mary during their courtship, he wrote of the desolation left by her absence. They were married in 1841 and made their first home in Bangor, Maine.41 The first weeks of marnage fulfilled their hopes of intimacy, but Maiy was complaining of a change in the relationship less than a year later. She noted that Henry “makes himself scarce at home” and said that he was gone so often that she felt only “half-married.” During his first year of marriage, Hemy had added a lumber business to his busy legal prac­ tice, and had become involved in local politics. Mary found herself “rest­ less” when he was gone.44 Within months, one of the central themes of their marriage was set: Henry’s absence and Mary’s consequent loneli­ ness. After eight years together, the Poors moved from Maine to New York City. There, Henry was more absorbed than ever in his work. Mary had plenty of company at home—she gave birth to six children during these years—but she could not accustom herself to Henty’s absence from home. He was m Europe on a long business trip when she wrote: “The longer you are away, the worse I feel about it. It sometimes seems as if I must see you . . I can think of nothing to tell you, because when I sit down to write, I have but one thought, and that is, how much I want to see you. That overmasters all others.”45 Even when the Poors took sum­ mer vacations on the farm in Maine where Henry grew up, he could not pull himself away from work to join the rest of the family. By 1864, Mary felt so isolated that the Poors moved to Brookline. Maiy now enjoyed the company of her relatives, while Henry commuted home from New York as often as he could. Although she had more adult companionship m Brookline, Mary saw Heniy less than ever. H er letters were forlorn, as she begged him to “come away from New York and take a vacation. Life is more than meat.”46 During the 1870s, Henry’s travel schedule eased up gradually, and by the time of his seventieth birthday in 1882, he was working mostly at home m Brookline. In this period of their marriage, Mary said they were

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“as happy, as two lovers.” Although Henry still worked steadily on books and railroad manuals during die day, the couple was often united for the evening. For the last twenty years of marriage, they lived together hap­ pily where Hemy worked.47 Mary Poor, it should be said, was not an emotional or intellectual weakling. She raised four children to maturity, survived the death of two others, ran a large and busy household, read avidly, pursued an active so­ cial life, worked for various charitable groups, and, in later years, cared for her elderly sisters. Still, she longed for a more complete and constant relationship with her husband. That longing was not just a product of Heniy’s absence. It was also a result of their great love for each other. Given his chrome absences, Henry’s love may be less evident than Marys, but he expressed his affection constandy in his letters to her. When she left to visit her parents in the early years of their marriage, Henry wrote: “I do miss you beyond power of description.” He added: “The truth is I never felt you so completely necessary to my happiness as since you have been absent.” More than a decade later, during a long ab­ sence, he wrote to her as his “dearest partner [and] friend,” expressed his “love and affection” for her, and confessed that he often wrote to her “in thought” during the day.48 Still, although Henry Poor loved his wife deeply, his recurrent ab­ sences cannot be attributed simply to the necessary press of business. Poor made a lifelong habit of piling one venture on top of another until his books, manuals, journals, securities work, and publicity jobs all but obscured his family from sight. Even when his projects were well in hand, he skipped family vacations, and he worked so much after his re­ tirem ent to Brookline that Mary wrote to one of their children: ‘Tour fa­ ther sits in his usual seat with a pen in his hand—I really wonder why he does not take a pen to bed with him.”49 The work that kept this husband away from his wife went far beyond the demands of external circum­ stance. The truth is that Hemy Poor felt a deep emotional need to be work­ ing. He confessed to nervous anxiety when he was idle. He took pnde in being constantly “on the go” and loved to compare himself to powerful, hardworking animals. Also, there were other forces within Henry that made home life awkward for him. He struggled with his own dashing feelings about love and tenderness, and treated issues of sentiment as womens province. He tried to avoid such issues even when they were unavoidable. As he told Mary, he preferred to deal with the embarrass­ ments of intimacy when they were separated because “we can at the dis­ tance we are apart, talk of love matters without blushing.”50 Yet Poor

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clearly needed to love and be loved. Once he knew Mary Pierce, he was desperately eager to marry her. By all evidence, he felt a deep affection for her. Although Henry could, as he wrote, “go into the world where in the business and bustle of life, he [could] forget his troubles,” he ex­ pressed loneliness for Mary when they were separated for more than a few days.51 He wrote at the end of one such separation, “I should be completely miserable did I not know that I possessed a wife and chil­ dren, and that they are soon to be united to me.”52 Henry Poor wanted love deeply, even if it perplexed and disabled him. Confused about intimacy but clear about work, Henry invested him­ self tirelessly m the problems of railroads, stocks, bonds, and business legislation. James McGovern, the historian who has studied Poors life most closely, has summed up the mans contending needs and passions m this way: Activist . . . attitudes . took precedence over his insistent though subdominant needs for love and sympathetic reciprocity. Being home too much where he could release the shy, tender, and idealistic feelings with which he approached love could only threaten his primary goals. Though beset with conflicting needs, Henry subordinated his softer and gentler ones to those leading to . . . productive achievement.53 Henry Poors arrangement of needs fitted closely with the ideas of gen­ der that dominated his era: a man focused his energies on the world, while a woman concentrated on the emotional needs of her family. With this division as the ideal, the physical separation of man from wife became pervasive. Midcentury advisers to young men tried to bal­ ance the trend by urging husbands to stay home as much as possible. As often happened, these authors indicated the prevailing trend by advising against it.54 Marriages like the Poors’—full of both separation and affection—ex­ isted on emotional ground that stood somewhere between alienation and intimacy. This middle ground was crowded with bourgeois couples in the nineteenth century.55 Such marriages were born in love and nur­ tured with the hope of lasting affection: they were based on contrasting spousal roles, and extended traditions of unequal power between hus­ band and wife, yet they were inspired by the ideal of a union between souls. Couples like these were kept apart by the demands of the middleclass workplace and often by male ambivalence, but there was enough love between husband and wife that they regretted their separation. Still, these middle-ground marriages did not fulfill the yearning for

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intimacy that swelled m the nineteenth century. To understand where such couples stood in the spectrum of marital experience, one remark by Darnel Webster is worth considering. After years of marriage to his beloved Grace, Daniel wrote his friend George Ticknor about Ticknor’s wife, Anna. Repeating with approval a comment that John Calhoun had made about the Ticknors’ marriage, Webster wrote: “He talked to me .. about your good fortune m picking up a companion on the road to life.” Grace was a good wife and a staunch support, but she lacked Daniels education and did not understand the rarefied atmosphere in which he operated. Anna Ticknor, by contrast, was cultivated, worldly, and well informed. She was more than helpmeet and cherished partner to her husband—she was truly a companion.56 The Websters’ marriage did not lack for affection or regard; it was not an arid affair of duty like the match of Mary and Ebenezer Gay. But it was not intimate, not a full meeting of souls. It was probably the usual middle-class experience; but pairs like the Ticknors were common enough to keep die ideal of union alive and flourishing.

Married Life: Intimacy We associate marital intimacy with the presence of many conditions— congenial companionship; shared values and tastes; deep trust; an intu­ itive sense of one another’s feelings; and a knowledge of one another’s unique personal needs. Still, the essential part of intimacy lies beneath these phenomena. Thç word itself comes from the Latin intimus, mean­ ing “inmost” or “deepest,” and that is the key to its meaning in relation­ ships.57 Intimacy is the aim of romantic love, the sharing of that inner­ most core which is ones truest self. It is the opposite of estrangement in marriage. In her account of romantic love in Victorian America, Karen Lystra describes three “sensations” detailed by nineteenth-centuiy lovers, sensations which correspond closely to the expenence of intimacy as it is m eant here. Two of these are self-disclosure and self-expression. The deep mutual involvement of intimacy was based on the unmask­ ing of the true self, getting to know the other “beyond social conven­ tions and roles.” This revelation of one’s essential self came through sincere, candid emotional expression. As the process of expression and self-disclosure went forward, the intim ate couple experienced a third sensation: the developm ent of a shared identity. Through this expenence, man and woman transcended their individual selves. By

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deep, mutual immersion, they “assimilated a part of each others sub­ jectivity.” This, in different terms, is the ideal of union, and it was a much-desired aspect of intimacy.58 Viewed as a cultural phenomenon, die pursuit of intimacy was a tribute— positive and negative—to die ascendancy of die individual in mneteenthcentury America. It was an expression of unique individuality dirough die ex­ posure of ones distinct core of selfhood. At die same time, intimacy was a quest to overcome die isolation of individuality dinough die merger of two selves into one. The existence of intimacy, as an ideal and as an experience, was not just a product of cultural history. It was also the outcome of changes in family relationships. In particular, the closer, more direct, and more sus­ tained bonds between mother and child that were typical of the nine­ teenth century left the child with a desire for such intimate connection later in life. The flourishing of intimacy as a cultural phenomenon re­ quired the proper worldview among men and women, and the right pat­ tern of common experience in early life. Romantic love and intimacy played a part in the formation of virtually all middle-class marriages in the nineteenth century. What would hap­ pen after the wedding day was far less certain. We have seen that the emotional gap between husband and wife grew wide in many marriages; yet, for other couples, intimacy endured and even flourished. One such couple was Charles and Persis Russell. Married m 1815, they lived for the rest of their lives in the small town of Princeton, Mass­ achusetts, where Charles was the local merchant and a leading political figure. He spent most of his time in Princeton, but he made occasional tnps to Boston to buy goods for his store. Intermittently, he also repre­ sented the town in the state legislature, and this led to longer absences from home. Charles s letters make clear, though, that he was devoted to domestic life—and especially to his beloved Persis. When he was away from home he wrote to her frequently and urged her to do the same, even if the let­ ters “contain but a few Unes.” Charles often complained of homesick­ ness, and sent Persis a stream of letters detailing his physical health.50 The most touching of these came late in life during a role reversal of sorts; this time it was Charles who was left at home while Persis visited their children and grandchildren. He wrote to one of his sons: I write a line at this late hour just to say that I am as well as usual. I sup­ posed your Mother would be rather anxious to hear. I have been so affraid [sicj of being sick since your Mother went down that I have almost

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fancied myself, at times, not quite well. I thought yesterday morning that I should certainly be attacked with a lame back and put on a plaster, again I thought my old trouble of a pain m my stomach was certainly ap­ proaching and took freely from your Mother’s pill box, but am inclined to think it was at least in part my imagination.60 Charles’s health formed an important part of his bond with Persis. It provided him with an acceptable way to ask for nurture—for mother­ ing—from his wife without discarding his formal authority or violating conventional norms of gender. Women, after all, were expected to act as doctor and nurse to their families. This illustrates the division of labor between Persis and Charles, which followed gender customs closely. The conventionality of their arrangements showed through when Charles went to Boston, leaving be­ hind a variety of “male” tasks. When the Russells’ sons were small, these jobs (running the store, doing chores on the farm) fell largely to Persis; but as soon as their elder son, Theodore, reached his teens, Charles turned the work over to him. There was no indication that Persis had performed these tasks poorly. Charles certainly trusted her to supervise Theodore’s performance; Persis was, in fact, the conduit of his orders.61 But Charles viewed these tasks as a man’s work: better that Theodore should learn to do them than that Persis should be kept from her women’s work to get them done. The Russells, then, subscribed to the customary assignment of tasks by gender, along with all the beliefs about the nature of men and women on which such custom rested. Still, their intimacy was undeniable. In this context, that intimacy appears as a land of bridge between two peo­ ple who saw their basic natures as fundamentally different. One letter m particular evokes the feeling of shared selves that typified the Russells’ marriage. During the legislative session of 1836, a letter from Charles described the hardships of spending the Sabbath alone and away from home. Aching for “the pleasure of which I am deprived,” he sought to create the feelings he missed by conjuring familiar scenes in his letter. He entered not only his wife’s activities but even her dreams: While I am writing these lines I suppose you are m bed with Sarah [their daughter] close up to your back and wrapt m sweet sleep and perhaps dreaming some pleasant thoughts that might have passed through your mind on this holy day .. or perchance you may have sat up later this evening than usual and are now, with Tom and Sarah, chatting about the absent members of the family (as we have been wont to do when all were present but Theodore).62

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The palpable sense of detail and the tenderness of its rendering show that Charles was intimately and warmly familiar with his wife’s routines. They also suggest a knowledge of her feelings and thoughts, a knowl­ edge which is underscored when Charles adds: “But my dear, whether asleep or awake, or however the day may have been past, I know these things have been upon [your] mind and separated as we are at this mo­ ment, I can read your thoughts in my own feelings.” Charles wrote as if his inner life and that of Persis were the same. In their intimacy, Charles felt as if they shared innemess in other ways: “Let us bless God for so uniting our hearts as to make them susceptible of the happiness he be­ stows.”63 Of the three sensations that Karen Lystra places at the core of roman­ tic love in the nineteenth century, self-disclosure and self-expression are much easier to locate in the letters of married couples than the third. But that “subjective feeling of being immersed in and assimilating a por­ tion of someone else’s interior life” is certainly evident in Charles Rus­ sell’s letters to Persis.64 Indeed, this intimate feeling of union was not merely evident but flourishing in the Russells’ marriage after more than twenty years of wedded life. Among intimate couples, the Russells were unusual in one respect: their kind of marriage was more common in the last quarter of the nine­ teenth century than in the earlier years when the Russells lived.65 In the later era, couples wrote to one another in a way that separated their indi­ vidual selves more distinctly from the roles they occupied. Whereas Mary Gay referred to her husband as “Mr. Gay” early in the century, Frank Kendall, a New York businessman, called himself “Your affection­ ate and loving Frank” in 1882. Married couples at the end of the century seemed prone—more than their earlier counterparts—to continue dis­ cussing each other’s individual quirks and weaknesses decades into the marriage. Alice Van Hise noted to her husband, Charles, that “you and I are not backward in suggesting improvements to be made in each other. We know each other’s comers and weaknesses.” In a tone of greater worry, Elizabeth Cattell wrote to her husband, Will, m 1880: “I know you so well, as soon as you feel a little stronger you will attempt to do things you ought not to do, you need some one to watch you.”66 Many late-century couples expressed affection readily after years of marriage. “Good night my darling. I go to dream of you,” wrote Frank to Elizabeth Kendall. And Elizabeth Cattell liked to remind her “dear old man” Will how much her happiness depended upon linn. The Cattells also possessed an ability to read each other’s thoughts that resembled a mental union between them. The couple did their best to avoid

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overnight separations, because Will could not sleep when they were apart.67 O f course, these late nineteenth-century men and women did not in­ vent marital intimacy. Still, the signs which we might expect of an inti­ mate marriage show through more readily m the correspondence of cou­ ples late m the century. These men and women gave themselves to a process of self-expression and self-disclosure that was ongomg. Their letters suggest that marriage sustained a growing knowledge of self and other. This was the direction m which marriage was tending. The experience of Charles and Alice Van Hise was somewhat differ­ ent from that of other late-century couples described here. In its differ­ ence, die Van Hises’ experience reveals some of the historical forces that were pushing toward intimacy in marriage, for diey seemed to have an awareness of gender that contrasted with that of other couples in similar marriages. The two of them met in 1875, when Charles was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and Alice was living with her family nearby. After they married m 1880, Charles became an eminent geologist, teaching at the university and ultimately serving as its president, Alice bore and raised their three children. Even before they were married, Charles and Alice showed signs of a keener awareness of gender than did odier intimate couples of their era. In 1879, when they were already engaged, Alice s mother asked Charles a difficult question: Would it-be a problem that Alice knew little of the technical subjects which he studied? Her question prompted him to write Alice a revealing letter. First of all, Charles posed the issue differ­ ently from the wav Alices mother did. He added his ignorance of music (Alice was a skilled pianist) to Alice s ignorance of mathematics as part of the problem that could anse. In doing so, Charles was consciously plac­ ing his fiancées special skills oii'the same plane of importance with Ins. Such a symmetrical view of talents and significance m a marnage was unusual. Having framed the question m this way, Charles searched for an an­ swer. He concluded that having different skills was more conducive to harmony in a marriage than having the same ones. He reasoned that “if our intellectual works were exactly m the same line, .. m an unguarded moment of defeat of one by the other, envy might creep m.” Here, Charles was imagining that husband and wife could be, in lus own word, “competitors” m the same sort of work. His conclusion, of course, was quite conventional: that their marriage would benefit by the clear sepa­ ration m their spheres of activity. Still, the mere fact that Charles dis-

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cussed the possibility of their working in the same field shows that he (and presumably Alice, too) lived in a far different world of thought and action than the other intimate couples studied here.68 At the start of their marriage, the Van Hises handled the conventional separation of spheres in an unusual fashion. Alice did not have a career, but she joined Charles on his geology field trips. Eventually she missed the comforts of home and decided not to go again; but she had a choice in the matter, a custom which was common m their circle of fnends. Charles liked to tell the story of a colleague whose wife came along on all of his field trips. One day in camp, the husband sat on top of a tree, “claiming that at last he had got to one place [his wife] could not come.” At that very moment, she was “shinning up [the] tree, taking off her shoes to do it.” This woman stopped coming on the tnps only when she began to have children. Like the Van Hises, this couple resolved their question of spheres in a conventional way, but the wife clearly had a choice through a significant portion of their marriage about whether to join her husband in his work world.69 The Van Hises’ self-consciousness about gender arrangements in their marnage shows through once again m a comment made by Alice m 1891. Writing about a couple they knew, Alice said: “L. M. has some dis­ agreeable traits as a husband that you are free from. He seems to be running things m her department most too much to suit my taste.” This man, it turns out, was taking over decisions in household management— decisions his wife thought were hers to make. As Alice saw the division of labor in their marriage, the household was her “department” and she was glad that Charles did not interfere with her authority there.70 The Van Hises, then, were a conventional couple when it came to gender arrangements, but, unlike the other couples studied here, they were aware of other possibilities. And occasionally—as when Alice joined Charles on field trips or when Charles put her musical talents on the same plane with his mathematical skills—they thought and acted m unconventional fashion. We cannot be sure why this was so, but at least one possibility seems likely. The world of the University of Wisconsin in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was quite different from the world of any other cou­ ple m this study.71 At the university, advanced ideas on many subjects gained a hearing, and m some cases gained favor as well. It is clear that the Van Hises’ friends often deviated from the usual arrangements be­ tween man and wife, and Charles and Alice certainly knew women who chose to make their careers m the academy or the professions instead of in marriage. These experiences did not make them a radical couple, but

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the Van Hises were transitional figures who lived by old ideas while un­ derstanding something of the new.72 Crucial among these new ideas was the concept—potent m its impli­ cations—that woman was an individual equivalent to man. Emerging from the midcentury women’s movement, this new view saw women not as bearers of generic female qualities, but as unique selves whose quali­ ties could include the “masculine” alongside the “feminine.” Such a con­ ception of womanhood gave females as legitimate a claim to a career and the vote as to motherhood and domesticity. Under the influence of this notion, the separation of spheres was laid open to question and the divi­ sion of labor (and power) within a marriage became a problem to be solved, not an arrangement to be assumed. In the late nineteenth centuiy, this idea of womanhood was radical. Solid, middle-class couples certainly knew of it and probably found it both ridiculous and threatening. For the Van Hises, the new notion of womanhood was a present reality. They rejected much of it in making their life choices, but they were conscious of its possibilities, accepted parts of it, and knew people who lived according to its precepts. The new idea had moved into circulation and was starting to affect individual lives. Underlying this new concept of womanhood was another idea, the same one that was creating changes in marriage. Before the nineteenth centuiy had dawned, the notion was already growing that a person’s sense of well-being was best fulfilled not through the exercise of social roles and duties but through achievement and experience as an individ­ ual self. The emergence of the individual from the enclosure of social roles—begun m the late eighteenth centuiy and proceeding through the nineteenth—led to the new conception of a man as someone who cre­ ated his own status and identity through his own personal efforts. Even as it was reshaping male self-conception, the new individualism was fos­ tering change in marriage. Once, matrimony had been viewed in terms of communal obligation. Now, in a society where the individual was the fundamental unit, marriage had become a bond between two people who sought a transcendent sense of well-being through their relation­ ship. This raised the stakes in marriage. Formerly, intimacy had oc­ curred as a happy accident in wedlock. As the nineteenth centuiy pro­ gressed, intimacy became the goal of marriage. Under these circum­ stances, it occurred more often, and when it did not occur, there was a greater sense of failure and disillusion. Thus, the late nineteenth Century saw both an increase in marital intimacy and an increase in the divorce rate.

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Of course, marriage at the end of the century was not a purely per­ sonal relationship. It was still a legal contract encumbered with tradi­ tional assumptions about gender, assumptions that accepted male au­ thority as a governing principle of relations between the sexes. Nor was the personal relationship itself free of traditional belief. Man and woman might be individuals detachable from their social roles, but male and fe­ male selves were viewed as fundamentally different, and that difference was construed in such a way as to justify male authority m worldly mat­ ters. In other words, men and women were viewed increasingly as selves but not as equal selves. The idea of the autonomous individual was ap­ plied to all white males, but its application to women had only been par­ tial. The hope of intimacy in marriage was growing, and equality was not seen as a necessaiy ground for intimacy.

Sex in Marriage Just as new ideas about the self began to affect ideals of marriage, they also began to change peoples feelings about the purposes of sex. In eighteenth-century society, with the individuals identity embedded m carefully rank-ordered roles, men and women saw the aim of sex as re­ production. Sex not only reproduced the race but reproduced the source of identity: the family. Then, as the individual’s identity emerged from the enclosure of ascribed roles, reproduction of the family lineage lost its meaning. The bond between man and woman now created a personal relationship and a domestic world of care and nurture, while their social identity was generated by the man’s efforts in the market­ place. In this context, sex between husband and wife expressed per­ sonal as well as social needs; increasingly, it signified intimacy between two unique selves.73 As many nineteenth-centuiy men and women thought of it, marital sex united the bodies of two people already joined in love. One writer on marriage said m 1882 that the sexual relationship of married people “viv­ ifies [their] affection for each other, as nothing else in the world can.”74 Thirty years earlier, an adviser to young women had asserted that the “physical aspects” of marriage, “pure and necessary as they a re ,. de­ rive all their sanctity from the spiritual affiniiy existing between the par­ ties.” Sex in marriage was an emanation of love.75 Procreation, of course, was still closely associated with sexual inter­ course in the minds of most people. A study done by Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher just before and after the turn of the century bears this out.

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Mosher asked fifty-two women, most of them highly educated, about their experience of marital sexuality.76 Roughly two-thirds of her respon­ dents said that the principal goal of sex was reproduction. There is rea­ son to suspect a certain amount of lip service in their answers, however. Certainly, “reproduction” was the polite traditional answer that a woman would feel most comfortable giving to a stranger. Indeed, many of the thirty women who gave this answer then qualified it—often to the point of downright contradiction—when they elaborated on their responses. One such reply said that intercourse was “necessary to complete har­ mony between two people.” Other women m the study argued against the notion that procreation was the chief aim of sex. One asserted that “the first and highest reason for intercourse” was “the desire, of both husband and wife for the expression of their union,” adding that the “de­ sire for offspring is a secondary, incidental, although entirely worthy mo­ tive, but could n ev er. . . make intercourse right unless the mutual desire were also present.”77 In fact, people were beginning to see children not as the mere out­ come of procreation but as a result of their love and intimacy, expressed through intercourse. In her study of courtship and marriage correspon­ dence, Karen Lystra found that middle-class men and women commonly wrote of their children as, in Lystras phrase, “love tokens.” One such correspondent called her daughter a “little pledge” of her love for her husband, while another described a child as a “tie to both our hearts.” A third told his wife: “You are my life Darling, and I cannot look upon our baby, except through you. My love for him does not anse from consan­ guinity alone, [but has its] roots deepest in the soil of the love I bear my wife.”78 As the purpose of sex was changing from procreation to inti­ macy, the purpose of procreation itself was changing from the embodi­ ment of lineage to the embodiment of love. There was an emotional logic in all of this. For the middle class of the nineteenth century, the highest ideal of marriage was the union of oppo­ sites—a union of opposite kinds of people, opposite spheres, and oppo­ site sets of moral principle. Sexual intercourse was the ultimate symbol and the supreme ritual of that union, joining bodies of opposite parts. Sex was the dream of union made flesh, and children were its lasting embodiments. Large problems stood in the way of husbands and wives as they tried to realize these ideals, however. To begin with, men experienced power­ ful cross-pressures on matters of sex. Peers, proverbs, and popular coun­ selors taught a male that his drives were fearfully strong.'9 He learned that the fate of his soul was tied to his control of that surging impulse.

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and he was encouraged to enlist the woman he loved in that effort at self-control. Thus, the object of his desires became the agent of his frus­ tration. Some of the pressure for restraint subsided with marriage, be­ cause marriage made intercourse legitimate. Yet even then, the need of middle-class men to limit the size of their families introduced new con­ straints. Two of the most widely used methods of contraception—conti­ nence and coitus mterruptus—required a man to exert self-control.80 Women, meanwhile, brought their own conflicts and concerns to marriage. Their training made them reticent about sex. They were taught that they had little or no passion, which made them mistrust their own erotic impulses. They knew as well that controlling male sex­ uality was their responsibility, and such a burden could not have made sex seem appealing to them. Moreover, as the person who bore the physical burdens of reproduction, a wife might well develop other neg­ ative associations with marital sexuality. As one historian has written, the prospect of pregnancy “threw a dark shadow over every act of inter­ course” for a married woman.81 And yet, there may have been more am­ bivalence than antipathy for most women. A wife’s duty to please her husband would have lent social sanction to her own erotic desires. In­ deed, there were nineteenth-century women who looked at sex as a source of gratification.82 Still, with so much emotional conflict attached to sexuality, it is hard to imagine that new husbands and wives could approach their lovemak­ ing with an attitude that was intimate or relaxed. Clearly a woman and a man were arriving at the marriage bed with different needs, different feelings, and different inner struggles. Apparently, husbands were more likely to resolve their inner conflicts m the direction of desire, and wives to resolve theirs in the direction of restraint. This pattern certainly fits with the popular nineteenth-century notions of male and female behavior. More than that, it shows through in the evidence we have about sex in middle-class marriages. One source of this evidence is nineteenth-century writing about sexu­ ality. A wide variety of authors described the same conflict m marriage between the husband’s initiative and the wife’s reluctance. Doctors testi­ fied that husbands tried to “overpersuade” their wives into sex. In the same vein, a feminist marriage reformer asserted that “the majority of married women are slaves to excessive sexual passion in their husbands, and . . . any attem pt on the part of the wife to assert her own rights in this respect is productive of . . . much domestic infelicity.” The sexual radical Victoria Woodhull, adopting the same metaphor, said of marital sexuality: “I would rather be the labor slave of a master, with his whip

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cracking continually about my ears, than the forced sexual slave of any man a single hour.” Henry Clarke Wnght, a conservative opponent of Woodhulls sexual radicalism, learned of the same sexual conflict in mar­ riage by talking to women on the lecture circuit. In response, he wrote that “woman alone, has the right to say when, and under what circum­ stances, she shall assume the office of maternity, or subject herself to the liability of becoming a mother.” The fact that Wright and so many other writers of differing viewpoints referred to the same struggle over sex in­ dicates a common pattern of behavior.83 The Mosher study of sexuality and married women provides more ev­ idence of the conflict between male initiative and female reluctance. One respondent, who wished to have sex about once every other week, told Mosher that she and her husband had intercourse three times a week, and that they would do it “offener if she would submit.” Men, one woman complained, “have not been properly trained about sexuality.” The negative tone of these comments indicates an atmosphere of con­ flict surrounding differences of sexual desire.84 Difference does not necessarily mean conflict, however. The very same study by Mosher also turned up clear signs that cooperation and empathy were possible in the sex lives of married couples. Some of Moshers respondents described their physical relations with their- hus­ bands in satisfied, and even ecstatic, terms. One woman, who had found a happy compromise with her husband on sexual frequency, wrote of their relations: “Simply—sweeps you out of eveiything that is [common­ place?] and every day. [Gives] a strength to go on.” Others wrote of their husbands’ kindness in a context that suggested their sexual frequency was a compromise between differing male and female wishes. These women, in achieving sexual mutuality, offered rapturous descriptions of their experience. One said that her years of physical relation with her husband had had “a deep psychological effect in making possible com­ plete mental sympathy, and perfecting the spiritual union that must be the lasting 'marriage’ after the passion of love has passed away with years.” The respondent who was most precise about the link between agree­ m ent on coital frequency and happiness in marriage was a woman whose first marriage had ended in divorce. Wed a second time at age fifty, she described sexual adjustment m the later marriage this way: “My husband is an unusually considerate man; dunng the early months of marnage, intercourse was frequent—two or three times a week and as much de­ sired by me as by him.” Through this expenence, the woman had learned that sex was vital to “complete harmony between two people.”

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Her statement that her husband was “unusually considerate" is a re­ minder that many men were unwilling to compromise on the issue of sexual frequency or that they did so only after rancorous conflict with their wives. Still, enough women were happy with their sexual frequency (and with their husbands) to leave the impression that the ideals of mu­ tuality and spiritual union were approached in some nineteenth-century marriages.85 Of course, the Mosher study can only tell us about sex and marital happiness from a woman’s point of view. We do not know that the men whose wives were pleased felt the same way. It is even possible that a male version of the Mosher study would show that husbands who ig­ nored their wives’ wishes were happier with their marriages and sex lives than men who took their wives’ needs into account. There is some cor­ roborating evidence, however, to suggest that the sexual experiences of married men and women were running on parallel paths. Nineteenth-centuiy women who were pleased with their erotic expe­ rience in marriage recounted a particular feeling that was central to their pleasure: the feeling that sex was an experience of spiritual one­ ness, that love found a natural outlet in physical affection which in turn exalted that love to higher realms. This experience, described by wives in the Mosher study, is also clearly visible m the correspondence of nineteenth-centuiy husbands. There are, for example, the letters Edward Eaton wrote to his wife, Mattie. Edward was a Congregational minister from the Midwest who served from 1886 to 1917 as the president of Beloit College m Wiscon­ sin. He and Mattie were devoted to each other, and his letters to her blended thoroughly the languages of intimacy and eros. Once, after twenty years of marriage, Edwards travels kept him away from home on Thanksgiving Day. Weaiy and alone, he let his feelings of intimacy and physical affection for Mattie overflow. He thought of the many evenings they had spent together: so full of rest and joy in each other’s presence, in such full trust m each other, each heart beating tranquilly close to its loved fellow Dear love what a garden of the heart you are to your boy, a sweet and sacred enclosure, all fragrance and refreshment and utter comfort; all this and always this.86 The intensity of Eatons love fused body and spirit. When he and Mattie were separated, his yearning was at once emotional and sexual. He wrote on another occasion: “How I longed this noon for the soothing

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touch of your loving hand on my forehead. .. When I am away from you it seems as if the one most desirable thing were to get within touch­ ing distance of you.”87 Edward Eaton’s words show how his love for his wife spilled over easily into the-pleasures of touch and sensual fantasy. A letter from Charles Van Hise to his wife, Alice, shows the same fu­ sion of love and erotic feeling. Alice had asked Charles, who was on a ge­ ology expedition, to kiss himself on the back of the neck for her, and he replied: "I don’t know just how to do the kissing asked of me; so I will wait until I can get home and not only kiss you there but everywhere, my love, my darling.” For Charles Van Hise as for Edward Eaton, sexual de­ sire merged with tender affection in his love for his wife. Men experi­ enced this feeling just as women did.88 The sexual relationship of intimate couples was an expression of love in more than a symbolic sense. The process of bridging the gap between sexual desire and reticence—without force or resentment—required that couples learn compromise and understanding, and then practice those skills repeatedly. Indeed, the commitment of a couple to this process of empathy and mutual identification showed m itself that a common purpose and sense of caring already existed. In other words, the route to mutual happiness in sex was the same as the route to happi­ ness m other realms of married life. Good sexual adjustment betokened good marital adjustment. Thus, even without the simultaneous testimony of the wife and the husband, we can guess that where the process of sexual adjustment was proceeding with satisfaction—where tenderness flowed smoothly in erotic channels—mutual intimacy must have been present. While it is true that such union is not visible in the majority of Mosher’s cases nor in the correspondence of a majority of the husbands studied here, nei­ ther is it a rare occurrence in either of those sources. Marital intimacy was not the predominant experience for middle-class couples—in bed or out—but it was still a common one, sufficiently common to nurture the romantic ideal and keep it growing. The moments of sexual wholeness enjoyed by fortunate couples were not shared equally throughout the century, however. The men whose let­ ters provide evidence of a fusion between the erotic and the affectionate were all late nineteenth-centuiy husbands.89 Similar expressions in the writing of men from earlier in the century are fragmentary and much harder to find.90 The Mosher study also contains hints of change over time. Mosher’s respondents who were born before the Civil War dif­ fered noticeably m certain sexual attitudes from the women born later. They were, for instance, more likely to see procreation as the aim of sex

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and less likely to see enhancement of the relationship as a main purpose. This is an oblique measure of behavior from a very small sample of the female population, but it does point m the same direction as the mens letters: it indicates that the joining of love and sex in marriage became more common in the final decades of the century.91 This historical timing ran parallel to another trend—the growing presence of marital intimacy in the late nineteenth century. The com­ mon pattern of these trends was not accidental. Both were following the upward arc of the importance of the self. After all, intimacy was present when two people disclosed their true selves to one another, and it reached its height at the moments when the two became so immersed in each other that they experienced a sense of union. In this context, sex was the physical counterpart of intimacy.92 In a heavily draped society, even a partial disrobing was an act of selfdisclosure. And the entry into or envelopment by another body was a process of mutual immersion. As intercourse reached its climax in the mingling of substances from each body, two individual bodies achieved a moment of union. When a nineteenth-century woman wrote of sex, “It seems to me to be a natural and physical sign of a spiritual union, a re­ newal of the marnage vows,” she was voicing a belief that was widely shared within bourgeois culture.93 Sex embodied intimacy, intimacy expressed selfhood. The increasing incidence of intimacy and sexual harmony in marriage could not have happened without the growing importance of the self as the cultural and social measure of things—but this growth alone was not enough to pro­ duce intimacy and sexual harmony. They required a match of personali­ ties, which is difficult to achieve m any era, and a sense of mutual under­ standing, which was hard to attain within the gender arrangements of the nineteenth century. Intimacy and sexual harmony in marnage had become more common by the end of the nineteenth century, but they were still the experience of a minority of middle-class couples.

Continuity and Change in the History of Marriage Histonans in recent years have debated the nature of marriage in the nineteenth century. Some claim that “companionate” marriage came into existence dunng the 1800s, bringing with it a sense of supportive­ ness, affection, and mutual dependence.94 Others have argued that such closeness of husband and wife was not a reality until the end of the nine­ teenth century.95 Part of this debate may actually hinge on the distinc-

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tion between cultural ideals and personal behavior. There is no question that intimacy and affection were marital ideals through most, if not all, of the nineteenth centuiy. The testimony of correspondence, diaries, court records, and advice literature all point to the powerful influence of this vision of marriage. It was not the only model available; older stan­ dards based on duty and hierarchy appear in personal letters and in die presumptions of law. Still both marital ideals existed side by side throughout the centuiy, with the companionate exerting a strong and growing power. The patterns of behavior in marriage present a much more elusive problem. The standards for historical comparison, for one thing, are not as clear as they may seem. It is possible to find intimate marriages in any historical era before 1800; so, in the strictest sense, companionate mar­ nage existed before the nineteenth centuiy, before the ideal itself. On the other hand, it is not clear that love and intimacy are the dominant behavioral realities even m the late twentieth centuiy. The divorce rate alone shows how difficult it is to live and sustain the companionate ideal—and the divorce rate only counts the couples who decide not to five together. It does not count couples who choose to accept their alien­ ation as a fact of their marriage and avoid divorce; nor does it indicate how many men and women cany out their wedded life with respect, duty, perhaps even warmth, but very little intimacy. Neither does the di­ vorce rate tell us about couples whose marriages go through distinct cy­ cles of involvement and distance. The dominance of companionate mar­ nage as a lived reality in the twentieth Century may be less certain than it seems.96 Recognizing all these limitations, the evidence gathered for this book permits some speculation about changes m marital intimacy during the nineteenth centuiy. It seems that loving, companionate marriages were m the minority throughout the century for middle-class couples, but it seems as well that this minority grew as the century went along. Indeed, the growth of companionate marriage may have accelerated in the last third of the century. Certainly, the written evidence of marital intimacy is easier to find then than in the previous decades. These trends leave us with a further question: Why did the reality of companionate marriage arrive so slowly when the ideal was so widely ex­ pressed? First, the particular kind of change we are discussing here is a personal adjustment, which is difficult to achieve under any circum­ stance. To endure for a lifetime, companionate marriage needs flexibil­ ity, trust, commitment, empathy, and two compatible personalities. Men probably found the many compromises and accommodations of such a

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marriage especially difficult. As “head of the household,” a man had a right to expect his wife to do as he said. Surely, this was easier and more comfortable than endless negotiation and compromise, especially when a competing concept of marriage held that a husbands power over his wife was his male right. Of the factors that made the ideal of companionate marriage difficult to realize, though, the one most distinctive to the nineteenth century was the ideology of separate spheres. Raised on the idea that they were completely different beings, a man and a woman started their relation­ ship with a sense of alienation. Although the romance of courtship did much to close that distance, the intensity of the romance was hard to maintain through years of marriage. The lives of husbands and wives ran in very different channels, and the values espoused in their separate day­ time worlds encouraged the old sense of estrangement. As we have seen, it was possible to realize the ideal of companionate marriage in the nine­ teenth century, and it became increasingly so as the century went along, but the gender ideals of the era made a challenging form of marnage even more difficult to realize. Middle-class men themselves seemed largely unaware of the slow changes in the institution of marriage, but they were keenly attuned to the differences m married life among themselves. Charles Russell re­ flected on these differences one night when legislative business kept him in Boston: Were I to consult my own inclination,. I should fly, at once, to the bosom of my family, and there . remain in the enjoyment of do­ mestic happiness. . How unhappy must that person be who does not find m his own domestic circle, by his own fireside and in the presence and company of his dearest earthly friends that enjoyment, comfort and pleasure . [that] this blessing [of home] is so admirably calculated to afford. When I see a man that can take more pleasure in the company of others than he can find at home I should think th a t. . all was not nght and that far better would it have been for him had he forever enjoyed the lonely comforts of “single blessedness.”97 By dividing men into those who enjoyed home and those who stayed away, Russell was recognizing the choice that middle-class men of his time were often called on to make: home or the world. Some men felt enervated or trapped by domestic life, while others were drawn to its wannth and security. Still others—perhaps the largest number—felt themselves attracted to and repelled by each world at the same time. Men’s conflicting feelings about marnage shaped the choices they

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made between home and the world. Some of the ambivalence they brought to married Ufe transcends the nineteenth centuiy, but the cul­ tural forces of the time structured men’s feeUngs—and their images of marriage and women—in ways that heightened inner conflict for men regarding wedlock. Men came to this relationship with desires to domi­ nate and to be nurtured; with views of woman as angel and as devil; with the fear that marriage and domesticity were a trap and the hope that they were a sanctuary; with the expectation that a wife would be a source of morality and the assumption that she would be a source of restriction; with the wish that marriage would offer him intimacy and an end to lonehness, and the fear that marriage would smother him and put an end to his freedom. Looking back from the twentieth centuiy, we cannot know m any sta­ tistical sense how men arranged themselves along the spectrum of com­ mitment to home and the world. We do know what cultural terms struc­ tured their choice, and we know what inner conflicts pressed upon them in choosing. Within these confines, men made their own personal com­ mitments.

Chapter 8

W ORK A N D ID E N T IT Y

WL

historian Arthur Cole explored the lives of eighteenthcentury merchants, he made a surprising discovery. These leading busi­ nessmen spent much of the day away from their businesses, investing large amounts of time m the public and religious affairs of their commu­ nities. From a larger perspective. Coles unexpected discovery certainly makes sense. This was an era when a man s identity came as much from his family and its place in the community as from his own achievements. A merchant enjoyed a position of prominence in his community, so it was his duty to lead in matters of governance and religion.1 Cole observed of the eighteenth-century merchants: “As yet, perhaps, business had not become so much an end in itself and success in busi­ ness did not become so adequately a basis for self-satisfaction, as was to become the case in the next centuries.”2 This did not mean that a mer­ chants work was unimportant to him. It represented a part of his public usefulness along with his political and religious leadership. His contribu­ tion to the common wealth blended seamlessly with his other contribu­ tions to the good of the community. Only in the early nineteenth cen­ tury, when the individual emerged in importance from the communal context, did a man s work take on a separate meaning and provide the chief substance of his social identity.

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Work and a Man’s Identity In the nineteenth century, middle-class men’s work was vital to their sense of who they were. “Man is made for action, and the bustling scenes of moving life,” wrote Theodore Russell as he sought a place in the world of middle-class work.3 This self-perception was constantly re­ inforced by those who made up a man’s social world. As Mollie Clarke told her suitor, Willie Franklin, in 1868: “I often think it is so different for men from what it is with us women. Love is our life our reality, busi­ ness yours,” If a man was without “business,” he was less than a man. In 1844, a New York college student made the gender connection explicit in a let­ ter to his fiancée: “It is so unmanly so unnatural to spend a lifetime in the pursuit of nothing.” “Suitable employment,” to use his phrase, was vital to a man. After a week of unemployment, young Lucien Boynton described his inner emptiness and depression: ‘T he week has left a painful vacancy in my mind, and the ‘Blues’ seem to be already gather­ ing around me. My soul feels as tho it had been feeding on wind and vapor.” A man’s life had little substance or meaning when he lacked work.4 Work was not just a personal matter, however. It helped to connect a man’s inner sense of identity with his identity in the eyes of others, and the expectations of others were bound to larger social conditions. As the nineteenth centuiy opened, the United States was becoming a nation where no formal barriers prevented white men from achieving positions of wealth, power, or prestige. Now, a man could determine his place m society through his own efforts. O f course, positions of high standing were limited in number, and informal barriers made access to these po­ sitions difficult for much of the male population. Still, a man could thrill at the prospect of improving his own position and becoming the master of his own social fate through personal energy and determination. Again and again, men described their personal goals as the outcome of their struggle— through their work—for a desirable social position. Certain phrases recurred when men set forth their goals: “arrive at eminence and fame”, “rise to wealth and honor”; “[get] on in the world”; "prepare myself for some station of respectability and usefulness.”5 A man’s social position depended, in theory, on his own efforts. Thus, men identified themselves closely with their work. O f course, male identity took its shape partly from its relation to fe­ male identity. In the gendered division of labor of the nineteenthcentury middle class, the woman made the home and reared the chil-

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dren, while the man earned the money to make the womans efforts pos­ sible. But m ens desire for position and fame was not just a residue of the breadwinners role. The division of tasks between the sexes gave a man the power to determine the social status of his whole family. It was his work that marked the place of his wife and children in the world. In other words, the self-made man of the nineteenth century made not only himself, but his family as well. This awesome power of social creation added weight to the already great importance of work. As we have seen, men and women were keenly aware of this male prerogative when they approached marriage. Alexander Rice reminded his future wife that he was the person “upon whose arm you are to lean thro’ life, upon whose reputation your own will rest and upon whose effects your happiness as well as his own will mainly depend.”6 The power to create the social position of ones family raised the stakes for the nineteenth-centuiy man. No wonder he identi­ fied himself so fully with his work; in a social sense, he was what he achieved—and so were those he loved.

The Meaning of Career Choice Ambitious young men of the nineteenth century filled their pnvate writ­ ing with the anxious buzz of hope and fear. As Rutherford B. Hayes began his study of law in 1842, he wrote in his diary: “I have parted from the friends I loved best, and am now struggling to enter the portals of the profession in which is locked up the passport which is to conduct me to all that I am destined to receive in life.” Hayes felt that his entire fu­ ture hung m the balance as he began his career. Other men shared that feeling, writing m their letters and diaries of wild oscillations between “black discouragement” and “the most ardent hopes, the most glowing ambitions.”7 Getting to the point of entry into a career was not, in itself, an easy task. Many obstacles lay between a male youth and the professional por­ tals that Rutherford B. Hayes described so auspiciously. Poverty, family obligation, complications of courtship, and conflicts of intention with fa­ thers were all common factors that slowed the progress of a youth to­ ward a career in business or the professions.8 But of all the elements that delayed the launching of careers, none caused so much youthful philoso­ phizing or contained such latent gender meaning as the choice of an oc­ cupation. This decision was not only the necessity and the prerogative of a man;

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it was, above all, a decision about what sort of a man one wished to be. This aspect of the decision contained its own dimension of gender, for Americans viewed different professions as more or less manly. Politics, for instance, was seen, even by its detractors, as a masculine pursuit. Ag­ gression, deceit, competition, and a spirit of self-interest—all traits that middle-class culture associated with men—were vital elements in the quest for the manly goal of power. William Dean Howells confronted this phenomenon as a young man. He arrived in Columbus, Ohio, in 1858, a political journalist who loved literature. He quickly discovered that poli­ tics in Columbus was a man’s world, while the arts were the province of women. To pursue his interests, he had to divide himself into male and female halves that could only flourish in different social realms. Not only was politics marked “male,” but a career in the arts was marked “female.” Other professions were sex-typed, too. Teaching, for instance, earned an aura of femininity, although a college president was manly.9 In general, male callings rested on power, pnde, and public emi­ nence, while female careers involved nurture and sentiment, an under­ standing of human feeling used to cultivate and ennoble the human spirit. Given the middle-class ambivalence about both male and female values, the choice among professions posed difficult problems for a young man. These difficulties were evident m the contrasts middle-class folk loved to draw between the law and the ministry. In some ways, the two callings were similar.10They were considered the most learned of profes­ sions; they required a mastery of precedent and tradition; they de­ manded a cultivated faculty of reason, even as they obliged a man to master the less rational arts of persuasion; and they encouraged their practitioners to join a knowledge of theory with an understanding of human nature. Yet, for all of these likenesses, the two professions ap­ peared to nineteenth-century men and women as diametric opposites. Reuben Hitchcock, a prominent Ohio jurist, returned from church one Sunday in 1848 and wrote to his wife: “As [the minister] stood in the pulpit today, I could not but contrast the high and noble character of his profession, with any worldly pursuit, and particularly with law and poli­ tics.” Focusing on the legal profession, Hitchcock wrote: The lawyer racks his brain over knotty and difficult questions, and . . . is constantly harrassed,. . the slave of the public .. [who] is required to exercise a liberality and practice a style of living, which will consume all his income, and give to him for all his effort.. the occasional applause of some of his fellows for his ability.

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Worldly matters demanded a lawyers time, but his counterpart in the pulpit was occupied by higher concerns: “The faithful minister of the Gospel acts for the highest moral and spiritual interests of his fellowmen, and is laboring directly for the happiness of his fellows, and when he shall rest from his labors, his works shall follow him.” Hitchcock ended his comparison with this wish: “If our dear boys are spared to grow up, and their education, habits, piety, and qualifications of mind shall fit them for the sacred desk, it will be to me, and I doubt not to their mother, a cause of devout thankfulness and gratitude to God.”11 As a young attorney, Henry Varnum Poor made a similar comparison between the ministry and the law. Poor was practicing law m Bangor, Maine, and the experience filled him with so many second thoughts that he pondered a change from the bar to the pulpit. He found that his legal practice threw him m among “men actuated by passion, prejudice, and desire for revenge,” men who offended his sense of Christian goodness. At another level, he disliked the law because it was “based upon force, a principle diametrically opposed to that by which the conduct of man to his neighbor should be regulated— . . . the principle of love.” Poor felt that if he pursued a ministers career, he would live more consistently with “the theoiy of [his] life that man . should live for his fellow man and adopt that profession . . . which can best promote their happiness in the world.”12 Although Poors grounds for contrasting law and mmistiy were not precisely the same as those of Reuben Hitchcock, they were veiy close in their moral basis—deeply rooted m the nineteenth-century division of virtues and vices into gender categories. In the minds of Hitchcock and Poor, the legal profession stood for passion, self-seeking aggression, and a constant capitulation to worldly lures and pressures. The law, m other words, represented the classic male weaknesses.13 The clergy, by con­ trast, symbolized the great female virtues. A ministers work was gov­ erned by moral and spiritual interests, by love, and by a concern for the happiness of others. Since Hitchcock and Poor echoed the judgment of their culture about feminine virtues and masculine flaws, their words seem to suggest a lofty prestige for the clergy and a dominant influence for the standards women represented—but matters were not this simple. First of all, one must remember that Hitchcock and Poor themselves both chose to be lawyers. Hitchcocks letter expressed a wish that his sons might become ministers, but he made no disavowal of his own career; and, although Poors statement was occasioned by his doubts about life at the bar, he ultimately expanded his work—not to the ministry but to publicity and

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analysis for the railroad industry. Poors actions belied his adherence to the principle of love in vocational choices. Indeed, the statements of other men show that, if the mmistiy stood for the female in middle-class culture, that symbolism did as much harm as good to the profession's image in the eyes of men. A damning midcentuiy essay (“Saints and Their Bodies”) by Thomas Wentworth Higginson indicates the ministry’s problems with public perception. Searching for the “causes of the ill-concealed alienation between the clergy and the people,” Higginson found “one of the most potent” to be “the supposed deficiency [in the clergy] of a vigorous manly life.” He noted that many parents “say of their pallid, puny, sedentaiy, lifeless, joyless little off­ spring, ‘He is bom for a minister,’ while the ruddy, the brave, and the strong are as promptly assigned to a secular career!” Even when people praised a favorite minister, they often did so in terms befitting a woman. An admirer of William Elleiy Charming described his “native sensitive­ ness of organization” as “almost feminine” and lauded his “womanly tem perament.” Another Unitarian divine, William Thacher, possessed a “winning and almost feminine gentleness of demeanor.”14 Just as the feminine traits inhering in the ministry could lower its sta­ tus in the eyes of men, so too the manly associations of the legal profes­ sion could add to its appeal. Alexis de Tocqueville expressed a common perception when he wrote: “In America. . . lawyers . form the highest political class and the most cultivated portion of society.”15 Lawyers—as men—could use their “natural” sense of reason to guide the great re­ publican experiment and to wield power wisely in protecting die nghts and freedoms of Americans. What better use could there be for such proverbially male traits as dominance and reason? In the end, the gender-linked valuations of the bar and the pulpit did not prevent either profession from replenishing its ranks with each suc­ ceeding genration. As we shall see, however, the gendered associations did affect the relative prestige of the two callings. At some level, young men seemed to be aware of these considerations as they chose careers. The gender meanings of different professions probably led to a self­ selection in the kinds of young men who entered various lines of middleclass work, although the evidence here is not sufficient to confirm the point. At the veiy least, the link between gender and profession created identity problems for certain men—problems that cried out for solution. Men found one solution to this problem through a strategy that merged the worldly with the godly, the “male” with the “female.” The strategy centered on die notions of Christian warfare and the Christian soldier. By waging Christian warfare, a minister could act with manly ag-

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gression while pursuing the sacred goals of love and goodness that his culture linked to women. A lawyer or businessman, by taking up arms as a Christian soldier, could purify his wealth and power by using it to godly ends. The chief arenas for this holy warfare were the revival and reform movements that flourished throughout the nineteenth century. As evan­ gelical fervor swept into the Midwest in the 1820s, an Ohio scholar and teacher named Elizur Wright rejoiced: “How exhilirating [sic] the thought, that an efficient army of vigorous Christian soldiers are in the act of preparation, and will soon stretch [in all directions] . . . inspiring ‘life and motion and joy through all our ranks.’”16 W nght recommended this “constant, vigorous, and persevering war­ fare” as a way to sanctify the energies of men in the worldly professions. One capitalist crusader of this sort was John Kirk, a salesman and a zeal­ ous abolitionist. Speaking to a group of evangelical converts in 1853, Kirk reminded them: “You have enlisted in the Christian warfare for life, under Christ, your King.” With slavery m mind, he advised the converts that “we wrestle . . . against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against Spiritual wickedness in high places.” In his own work, Kirk wrestled for profit with his competitors, but he made time for the greater and more holy battle for the soul of a nation. The idea that a man of the worldly professions might enlist in holy warfare carried on through the century. In 1888, Richard Cabot, a young reformist doctor, asked his fiancée, Ella Lyman, to “stand side by side . . . in mutual help and understanding as we fight Gods battles.” For Cabots generation, this urge to wage holy warfare against worldly evil crystallized into the collection of social movements that we now call “progressivism.” Historian Robert Crunden has observed that many no­ table progressives came from religious families that cultivated stern Protestant consciences. Resisting pressure to follow careers in the min­ istry or missionary work, these devotees of reform found secular chan­ nels for their evangelical impulses, launching crusades to save society from its worldly sins. Progressivism offered men of worldly callings the opportunity to respond in manly fashion to the dictates of their Christian consciences.17 Throughout the century, ministers also enlisted readily in Christian warfare. The great reform movements and revivals gave them suitable opportunities to apply assertiveness, energy, even masculine hostility to the cause of Christian goodness. J. L. Tracy, a young teacher trained for the evangelical ministry, wrote to Theodore Weld in 1831, urging him to bring the work of revival to the Ohio Valley, which he called “the great

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battlefield between the powers of light and darkness.” "Why not,” asked Tracy, "train the soldiers of the Cross within sight of the enemies camp?” And young Henry Ward Beecher, in his earliest days as a minister, crowed that he was “waxing mighty in battle” as he penned an abolition­ ist editorial.18 By freeing up the aggressions of the clergy and purifying those of the businessman and the lawyer, the image of the Christian soldier in sacred warfare liberated vast quantities of male energy.19 Without this spiritu­ ally charged assertiveness, the great antebellum and Progressive reform movements would have been unimaginable. Moreover, this sacred com­ bativeness made career choice possible for many young men by adding toughness to “feminine” professions and lending virtue to “manly” call­ ings.

Hen at Their Work Some men chose their careers easily and some chose them with qualms about the manliness or the morality of their choice, but the time came when each of them “first [made] trial of [his] talents” in a profession. Many years of hard work and even more of grand dreams had been spent m preparation for this moment. Young men often felt as if an audi­ ence of friends and family watched their first efforts at success. One youth even imagined an arena full of “spectators” waiting “in expecta­ tion.”20 Although there were some who could claim immediate and encourag­ ing victories, young men were more likely to report a mundane, discour­ aging reality. They lacked connections among clients and fellow profes­ sionals, and they had no record of proven success to attract business. Given the sharp, constant fluctuation of the American economy in the 1800s, there was always a good chance of starting out at a time of con­ traction when even established firms were going down. With so many initial problems to confront, young men often achieved little success at first. Some simply failed.21 Not surprisingly, self-doubt flourished in the writing of new business­ men and professionals. Morton S. Bailey, as a beginning lawyer in Den­ ver, wrote a letter in 1880 to his close college friend, James Cattell, pouring out his fears: “I am in continual doubt and full of misgivings lest the future be darker than the past, and with this feeling of dread do you wonder that I hesitate to make the advancing steps or that I would al­ most rather not take them at all.” Self-doubt was a disease of the novice

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at the start of the century as well as the end. When Daniel Webster wrote to congratulate a friend who had just preached his first sermon, he confessed anxiety about his own career. He felt the "conflicts . . . be­ tween the rival powers of Hope and Fear,” and, as he expressed full con­ fidence in his friends success, he realized that he did not have the same feeling of certainty about himself: "Poor human nature! How entirely sure we are and easy about everybody’s fortune but our own.”22 Perhaps the aspect of the novice’s self-doubt that was most distinctive to the nineteenth century was the way in which men chose to cope with it. When Allan Gay, an art student, wondered in a letter to his father in 1839 whether he had enough talent for painting "to make it necessary and proper for me to continue,” he responded to his own fears as if by instinct: “I have learned it is not so much genius as an untiring persever­ ance that determines to conquer every obstacle.” Talent, in the minds of nineteenth-century Americans, mattered less than persistence. The proper antidote to male self-doubt was not self-examination but “untir­ ing perseverance” and a redoubling of effort. Ray Stannard Baker, an aspiring journalist, took the experience of being “jobless, hungiy, and (briefly) homeless” as an invigorating chal­ lenge. He refused to "confess defeat,” and he knew that he “could and would stand a considerable degree of starvation before [he] surren­ dered.” “Curiously enough,” Baker recalled, “it did not seem at all hard­ ship. Something about it even lifted one’s spirits. It was an adventure in hard realities; it aroused everything a man had in him. It was in short to be enjoyed—almost!” From boyhood onward, a male learned that it was shameful to walk away from hindrance or defeat without fighting back.23 Thus, young men responded to the initial doubts and frustrations of their careers with intensified effort. A student named Mary Butterfield noted in 1846 that “it is a common and a great fault with young men . . . when they enter upon active life to become entirely absorbed by busi­ ness.” At the very start of their professional lives, then, young men began the habit of pouring heart and soul into their work. This habit, spread out over a lifetime, became a defining mark of American manhood.24 It was a common observation in the nineteenth centuiy that Ameri­ can men had a passion for work. In 1820, a Connecticut law student noted that business “engages [a man’s] mind and occupies his thoughts so frequently as to engross them almost entirely and then it is upon his employment that he depends almost entirely for the happiness of life.” Another commentator wrote in 1836 that the American man “is never . . . so uneasy as when seated by his own fireside; for he feels, while con versing with his kindred, that he is making no money. And as for fireside

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reading, .. ‘he reads no book but his ledger/” A third critic warned at the start of the twentieth centuiy that there was “a masculine disease m this countiy”: the "habit and fury of work, unreasoning, illogical, quite unrelated to any [economic] need/’25 As young Boston physician Richard Cabot wrote of his work, “I wouldn’t for the world be free of my harness; I put it on and keep it on myself.” Work may have been a harness to Richard Cabot, but it was a harness that he loved to wear.26 Any phenomenon as widespread and deeply felt as this male passion for work was bound to be—in Sigmund Freud’s term—“overdetermined.” In other words, one can locate many reasons for mens prodi­ gious appetite for work. Most of these reasons, taken individually, might be sufficient to explain the masculine zeal for productive activity. Taken together, they provide an explanation with many interconnected sources.27 Some sources of men’s passion for work we have already examined. In the nineteenth century, a man’s primary duty was to support his family through his efforts in the workplace; a man determined his own social position and that of his family through work; work provided men with an acceptable outlet for aggressive action in a society where such action was a crucial component of manhood; it also gave men an arena in which they could exercise their manliness through dominance. In addition to these motives, there were other, gender-related forces that gave men their passion for work. We have seen how life in a middleclass household taught children to associate the female with nurture, in­ terdependence and restraint, while linking maleness to power, indepen­ dence, and freedom of action. When a boy left home to join the com­ pany of his fellows for part of the day, his experience established the male world even more firmly in his mind as a realm of l i b e r t y and adven­ ture—and the female world as a realm of quiet confinement. This web of gender associations extended readily into adulthood. Most middleclass men seemed to enjoy their work. Their jobs in the male domain of the marketplace provided them with a more inspiring challenge than they could find elsewhere in their lives. Just as the absorbing play and the stimulating games of boyhood became the focus of boys’ days, the feverish competitions of the marketplace excited men’s interest. Historians have accepted the word of nineteenth-century ministers, moralists, wives, and mothers that home was a haven in a heartless world.28 Certainly there were bourgeois men who felt this way; but there were other men who experienced home as a dull lodgement or even as a threat to personal independence and individual manhood. Women sensed this feeling at times. In 1869, Serena Ames asked her beloved,

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George Wnght, if he “sometimes [had] uneasy feelings about a time to come when a weak, childish woman will cling too closely, impeding your progress, and by too much coaxing, thwart your desires, making you less free to go your way in the full liberty of manhood?”29 Even if the woman herself were not “weak” and “childish,” a man could readily associate home—the female realm—with his own experience of weakness, child­ ishness, and restraint as a small boy. A man for whom these associations were especially strong and unmanageable might well become compul­ sive in seeking out the world of work in order to experience more of “the full liberty of manhood.” Work could serve to reassure a man about his manhood and about the freedom and power that manhood betokened. More positively, it provided many men with a compelling challenge and engaged their sense of play. Beyond these gender-linked motives, there lay still another source of mens passion for work. In the words of a contemporary, men over­ worked “to escape ennui or unwelcome thoughts.”30 Mens testimony makes clear that the use of work to avoid painful feelings was a common male habit.31 One person who understood this was Charles Van Hise. The letters he and his wife, Alice, wrote to each other after the death of their twenty-year-old daughter, Hilda, reveal a clear contrast in the way men and women treated work as part of the grieving process. When Charles set out on a business trip a few months after Hildas death, Alice wrote despondent letters. Charles replied with great sympathy for her plight. “I know your desolation,” he wrote. “I wake up in the night and it comes over me. In the morning it is always there with me.” He also knew that he had a much easier way to escape from sorrow than Alice did. “The only possible thing to do is to think of the things to be done and do them. I am aware that this is far easier for me who have thus far been full of business, and who is moving from place to place.”32 Van Hises statement offers us a key to understanding why work seemed to comfort men more than it did women. It certainly was not be­ cause women lacked for things to do; all but the most privileged middleclass women had their days full of domestic and social duties. Rather, it was because activity had long since taken on a reassuring quality for men. Trained from boyhood to associate action with male worth, doing something (but especially doing familiar tasks with many past satisfac­ tions attached) reassured men about their own worth as male human be­ ings. Since doubts about ones personal value lie at the heart of feelings of grief, men naturally turned to work for succor at times of loss. Also, work—being a prime source of enjoyment for some men under normal circumstances—could function effectively as a temporary distraction

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from tlie weight of grief. Activity could lift a mans spirits even as it soothed his hurts. For women, the balm of action was not so comforting.33 H ie virtues they had learned to identify with female worth—piety, purity, and sub­ mission—are all states of being more than of action. Because she associ­ ated her human value with “being” more than “doing,” a woman coping with grief lived with her feelings instead of acting against them; she ac­ knowledged them and sifted through them with family and fnends. Thus, when Alice Van Hise filled her letters to Charles with expressions of gnef and statements of her shortcomings as a mother, she was doing the work of mourning in her “woman’s” way. But Charles misunder­ stood. He saw feelings of gnef and self-doubt as ones to banish—even to vanquish. Thus, when he told Alice that the “only possible thing to do is to think of the things to be done and do them ,” he was giving Alice the best advice he knew. When she sorted through her feelings about Hilda’s death, he urged her to “cease trying to solve the riddle of the Uni­ verse.”34 He did not understand—it was not a “possible thing” for Charles to understand—that Alice was doing her own grief work, trying to find a way to be at peace with her loss, to accept her feelings and live with them. For Alice, work was an avoidance of the issue. For Charles, it was a balm, maybe even an elixir. Many other men used their work, as Charles Van Hise did, to assuage grief and “escape unwelcome thoughts.” Indeed, work had a kind of magical aura in the world ,of bourgeois manhood. Beyond matters of duty, power, identity, and escape, many men worked constantly because it gave them pleasure. The middle-class world of work provided them with a male environment that was both familiar and stimulating.

The Measure of a Man: Failure and Success Middle-class manliness was defined by notions of success at work, yet an understanding of failure is also vital to an understanding of bourgeois manhood. Failure was a fact of life even for those men who might be considered successes. It visited some successful males in the early years of adulthood; it was a temporary companion to all; and it entered eveiy family through the disappointments and disasters of sons, brothers, un­ cles, and cousins. Many men had to learn how to grapple with failure, and th e n a r of it was a common experience among males of the middle class. To understand these men, we must understand their attitudes and feelings about failure.

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Family correspondents handled this unpleasant subject quickly, with curt phrases. The New York merchant Sylvester Lusk said of his hapless brother’s attempt to start a business in Texas: “I hope William will get better out of the Texian advanture [sic] than we have previously reason to expect.” Writing several months later about the career choice of a dif­ ferent brother, Sylvester observed, “I hope whatever he undertakes he will not share the fate of William.” George Dryer, business manager at a Minnesota sanitarium, discussed the failure of his brother in similarly vague terms: “I am sorry you cannot report to me more favorably of Charlie. From his conduct and from the good resolutions he expressed I had great hopes that he would assist you and by a more manly course wipe out some of the unpleasant memories that are associated with him.” With such cryptic phrases and glancing allusions, families dis­ cussed the failed men in their midst. These men, and the references to them, drift through the pages of nineteenth-century letters and diaries like silent, unwelcome ghosts.35 Failure was a want of achievement where achievement measured manhood. Moreover, failure was viewed as a sign of poor character. The deficiencies of character that were thought to cause failure were of two sorts. One was laziness. Again and again, we have heard men exhort one another to “industry,” “persistence,” “hard work,” “unflagging effort,” and “the wise use of time.” Each of these popular phrases stood not only as an exhortation to positive behavior, but as a warning against negative behavior. Typically, men were prone to write about desirable traits, but when they did discuss undesirable ones their disapproval was sharp. They urged each other to start “breaking up a ll. tendencies to indo­ lence” and to “quit loafing.”36 The other deficiency of character that men held responsible for fail­ ure was a tendency to vice and debauchery. Just as people wrote about failure in veiled allusions, they referred to the vices that bred failure m vague obscurities. Samuel G. Stevenson, an aspiring businessman from New York, told an uncle close to his family that his fathers “habits are so bad, that he is unfit to mingle in respectable society.” Young Stevenson added candidly his reasons for not identifying his father’s vices: “To give you a history of his conduct, would only add pam to my thread-bare feel­ ings on this subject. To say the least [his habits] are too bad to reduce to writing.” Even after his father had conquered his bad habits, Stevenson felt such pain about them that he still could not bear to give them a name: “Father is quite a new man. His habits are good, and he enjoys perfect health, having more than one year remained without the least in­ terruption from his old habits.”37

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What habits were so shameful as to be unmentionable and so devas­ tating as to prevent success? We get a clue from a letter about Ebenezer and Mary Gays son Charles, whose “follies,” “debaucheries,” and “dissi­ pation” were the subject of many pained and obscure references in his family’s pnvate writing. One letter specifies the sources of Charles’s ac­ cumulated debt, chief among them being drink, billiards, and new clothes. Of these vices, one suspects drink as the primary culprit behind Gay’s failures, and also behind the many glancing references to “vices” and “follies” in the correspondence of other worried families. Certainly liquor was the favorite target of authors who advised young men. More than any other common vice, it ate away at personal judgment and phys­ ical health.38 O f course, alcohol was part of the collective life of male youth and of many workplace cultures. In some all-male settings, the pressure to drink was so strong that liquor consumption became; a badge of man­ hood. Ironically, then, the flaws of character that led to failure came ei­ ther from an excess of manhood or a deficiency of it: in a symbolic sys­ tem that identified the aggressive passions as male, an unusually strong desire to drink or otherwise debauch oneself was both masculine and a hindrance to success. On the other hand, the traits associated with habit­ ual drinking—-passivity, submissiveness, and a want of energy and selfassertion—were marks of insufficient manhood and a hindrance to suc­ cess. Being a man, then, meant more than suppressing “female” qualities and encouraging “male” ones. It also meant strict control of some “male” impulses and encouragement of others. A man who failed at this task paid a high price, which a nineteenth-centuiy newspaper described with unsparing candor: “If we have not the will to avoid contempt, miseiy and disgrace, we deserve neither relief nor compassion.”39 This was the cultural understanding of failure. How did men cope personally with the “contempt, miseiy and disgrace” attached to it? Men who failed (or felt that they had) were helped by the fact that the harsh code of failure was not quite as monolithic as it may appear. When Samuel Stevenson tried to explain the rum of his father’s business, he said that it was “owing to misfortune . . . and bad habits.” The distinction suggests that, behind the belief in character as the determinant of failure or success, there was some sense that factors beyond a man’s control could affect his fate in the workplace. This distinction between bad luck and bad habits in explaining busi­ ness failure is evident in a Massachusetts minister’s diaiy entiy in 1807. The Reverend John Pierce of Brookline noted that a local club had held a debate on the question: “W hether it be expedient for legislators to

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make a difference between bankrupts by misfortune and bankrupts by knaveiy?”40 The law at the time did not separate business failures on this basis; in its eyes, a bankruptcy was a bankruptcy, and a man simply had to live with the harsh consequences of his failure. Still, the fact that men publicly debated the distinction between bad fortune and bad character suggests that people could at least separate the two in their minds as possible causes of ruin. Tlie existence of this conceptual difference shows us that there were cracks of mercy in the great wall of condemnation. When individual men tried to understand their own failures, they often sought comfort in the thought that uncontrollable fortune had led to their downfall. Daniel Webster’s son Fletcher blamed the demise of his land management pro­ ject m Illinois on the economic collapse of the late 1830s. Young Massa­ chusetts doctor Edward Jarvis explained the failure of his medical prac­ tice in Northfîeld, Massachusetts, by the treachery of his rivals, account­ ing their “falsehood and defamation of [his] character” as the reason for his disappointment. Certainly, it was the common custom of the time for politicians to blame their defeats on the dishonesty, fraud, and “corrupt bargains” of their opponents. By claiming that factors beyond their control led to their ill fortune, some men tried to justify the disgrace of failure.41 Many men learned another way to deal with setbacks, however, a style of coping that was more consistent than analysis or explanation with the active values of manhood. Such men drove themselves to shake off failure, rise above despair, and plunge back into action headlong. This approach to hardship was deeply embedded in middle-class culture. In an essay quoted earlier, young Will Poor enumerated all the usual habits and virtues that would lead to triumph. The crowning rule of successful behavior was this: “Above all,. . . [do] not be discouraged by any adverse circumstances.” In later years. Will’s own successful father observed him with admiration: “[Will] is different from me. If he meets with a repulse he will not be cast down, but continues to fight with unabated courage the battle of life.”42 Will may have learned this lesson from his father’s incessant activity or from his own experience in the world of boys. Certainly he could not have avoided the homilies about adversity that fell from the lips of so many Yankee sages in this era. Heniy Ward Beecher said: “It is defeat that turns bone to flint; it is defeat that turns gristle to muscle; it is de­ feat that makes men invincible.” On the same subject, Wendell Phillips wrote: “What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better.”4-3

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Such precepts echoed far and wide, providing a language of hope and determination that shaped the private thoughts of middle-class men. Re­ flecting in 1878 on the qualities needed to succeed m business, Charles Van Hise summarized his ideas in this way: “In short, [the man of busi­ ness] must not know the word ‘fail'; all things must be bent to one thing—success.”44 Taken literally. Van Hise’s advice was a prescription for denial: succeed by ignoring failure, pretending that it does not exist. Apparently, this was the most potent strategy that middle-class Ameri­ cans could find for dealing with such a painful issue. When they dis­ cussed the failure of family members, they certainly pretended “not [to] know the word” and avoided the subject as deftly as they could. When it was their own failure, they tried to deny it by ignoring their feelings of discouragement and pressing onward. Maine native and future politician John Barnard took this strategy to its highest degree. On his thirty-fourth birthday, he reflected in his diary on the wayward course of his adult life. By his own ready admis­ sion, he was not a success; as he put it, “ I [have] .. but little to show for my labours.” Although ambitious, he rarely held a job for long. He never trained for a career, and his most frequent occupation was the classic time-marking activity of educated youth: schoolteaching. In his mid-thirties, he was past the age where most young men needed such holding actions.45 Yet Barnard’s birthday reflections were buoyant, optimistic, almost san­ guine: “In the main I have been a happy man—blest with a mmd not too easily cast down by changes of fortune. Always buoyed up by hope.” He then described his hopes—and habits—in classic words of nineteenthcentuiy determination: “How much we count on the future. Lay plans and anticipate nches—honour and happiness—disappointment cools our ardour but little. We alter our plans and drive on as briskly as ever and so I presume I shall continue to do till death shall summons me from all earthly scenes.”46 Barnard steadfastly refused to be shaken by his own failure. Or, more accurately, he refused to admit that he was shaken. For his own account of his adult life belies his cheeiy words and reveals the depth and strength of his denial. In nearly two decades after leaving home, John Barnard resorted to many strategies common to frustrated men who suffered through their own repeated failures. Barnard moved constantly. His personal relations were tumultuous: he engaged in feuds and fistfights with his male peers and treated women with extravagant faithlessness. He “drove about into all the wild company [he] found.” He also, in his own words, “tried spirit to keep [his] spirits up” and he “used

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opium sometimes.”47 These are not the habits of a man “always buoyed up by hope” and “not too easily cast down by changes of fortune.” They seem to be the actions of a man pained by his own inadequacy. The distance between Barnard’s image of resilience and his actual ex­ perience is revealing in two different ways. First, it shows the cultural power of denial as the accepted strategy for coping with failure. Here was a man who described his own suffering vividly and remembered lus depressions of spirit with painful clarity. Yet, when he tried to step back and summarize his life, he resorted instinctively to the standard formula that reconciled his experience of failure with dominant ideals of man­ hood and success. As a way to describe defeat, the formulaic language of resilience and denial was inadequate, but, as a way to rationalize the “contempt, disgrace . . . and misery” of failure, this formula clearly had usefulness and strength that made it popular. In the end, it may have proved effective for Barnard. After marrying happily in his mid-thirties, he gained the stability that had eluded him for so many years. He began to keep a diary as a way to deal with the pain of a long separation from his wife. It turned quickly into a sifting device, one that enabled him to describe his past, sort it out and come to terms with it at a time when he was clearing away the financial debris of his turbulent life and securing his personal commitments. In this con­ text, the cultural formula of “pressing on past failure” became a kind of incantation; it reminded him that he could still succeed, and linked him ritually to other men who rose from ruin to success. W hether he had lived according to its dictates in the past m attered less than his attempts to abide by them in the present. Barnard went on from this moment to achieve success in Maine politics. Thus, a cultural article of faith became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Still, this understanding of Barnard s attempts to change himself and cope with failure does not help us to understand the decade and a half of his life in which tumultuous behavior and worldly defeat ran side by side. Did personal habits cause failure or were they a behavioral re­ sponse to the pain of ill fortune? Or did the two create a spiral of de­ spair, shiftlessness, and failure? Barnards life poses these questions without providing any effective answers. Certainly, his contemporaries believed that bad habits contributed to many ruined fortunes; and it is true that rootlessness, constant interpersonal turmoil, and chronic in­ ebriation are all hindrances to success in most professional and business occupations. Yet the annals of success in the nineteenth century are full of men—Andrew Jackson comes to mind—whose lives were marked neither by regular sobriety nor by peaceful personal relations.

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Even if such habits were m part a cause of failure, it is very hard not to see them also as a response to worldly setbacks. It must have been a painful expenence to fail in a society where failed men “deserve neither relief nor compassion.” Whatever other motivations men had to dnnk, carouse, or run from responsibility, the sting of defeat must surely have been one. We have John Barnard’s direct testimony that—during his long period of failure—he sought wild company and used liquor and drugs to raise his sagging spirits.

Failure was a painful experience. In addition, the fear of that experience cast a long shadow over men’s lives. In a competitive, burgeoning econ­ omy the chances for failure were great. While men were reluctant to dis­ cuss their own chances directly, their anxieties were drawn into the open by the prospect of love and maniage. In 1822, a young man named Benjamin Ward connected his thoughts about his fiancée with his fear of failure. He wrote, “If I should sink in my professional efforts . . . how would that friend be wounded, how would her days be em bittered.. . . If I were wholly independent, .. my fear of . . . defeat would be far less terrible.” Another young man, George Rudd, wrote to his brother in 1858 about failure and its connec­ tion to mamage, using language as strong as Ward’s. Rudd recognized that there would “be another” who would “share in the embarrassment of failure . . . —and that veiy f a c t . . . will only make the burden to be borne die more crushing.” If these two men are an accurate indication, men were acutely aware of the price of failure and feared it greatly. “Embarrassment,” “burden,” “crushing,” “terrible”—these strong words suggest the dark underside to the hope of success. It is not surprising that men felt reluctant to discuss this underside.48 Yet, despite the frightening prospect of failure, most men focused on their dreams of success and plunged ahead. W hatever their ultimate de­ gree of success or failure, they believed in the game enough to play it. The unbelievers—who thought the game was not worth playing—might retreat into drink, self-abasement, and failure. There were, however, more constructive alternatives. For a few self-conscious rebels, the com­ munal movement of the antebellum years provided an escape from the heavy costs of manhood in an era of individualism. For a larger number, the security of evangelical Christianity may have provided a solace against the pain of failure and the anxieties of the open market. In a dif­ ferent vein, the popularity of such heroes as Natty Bumppo and Davy Crockett may have reflected the need for a fantasied retreat from the

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bruising defeats and artificial demands of m ens lives in the marketplace. Still, fantasy could offer, at best, partial comfort, while evangelism and the communal movement never absorbed more than a limited mi­ nority of men from the comfortable middle class—and had, in any event, run their course as movements of significance by the last third of the century. By those final decades, though, a cultural device had evolved that buffered men from the demands of the marketplace. Middle-class males for whom work was an ordeal increasingly found shelter in vague, debilitating illness. Actively tolerated in some circles, male neurasthenia was a common phenomenon in the late nineteenth centuiy.

The Cultural Meaning of Male Neurasthenia Will Cattell was a Pennsylvania native. Trained as a minister, he rose to the presidency of Lafayette College. Then, in 1883, Cattells ill health forced him to resign. The pressures of the job had broken him down mentally and drained his physical energy. Free of responsibility, Cattell rested for several months. Then he took a part-time job in Philadelphia with the Presbyterian Church. The new situation worked well at first. Will wrote to his son James that he had “more really troublesome things to settle [in his new position] in the last two weeks than [in] . . . two av­ erage months at Lafayette” and yet he was “hopeful and happy.”49 Within six months, however, the vague, enervating symptoms of his earlier collapse reappeared. By May 1885, his wife, Elizabeth, feared that he was “breaking down again.” Will suffered from a downward spi­ ral of tension, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and depression. Although his work provided the ultimate source of strain (“After the meeting of his board on Tuesday, he came home completely broken down. Dr. Harper and Dr. Reid had both annoyed him, and made him very angry.”), Will Cattells tensions came to focus on his obsession with the noise of the streetcars that rumbled past his home. His son Harry observed that his father could not rest “on account of the noise grating upon his nerves. When Papa is home he talks of nothing else but the noise when there is any and in anticipating its coming when there is none.” Will finally re­ sorted to extreme measures. Upon discovering that the sound of the cars did not penetrate an isolated closet on the third floor of their home, he retreated there at night in search of undisturbed rest.50 Cattell’s nervous obsessions were very much his own, but he shared the larger pattern of illness with a substantial portion of comfortably sit­ uated middle-class men in the late nineteenth centuiy.51 These neuras-

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thenic males described an odd lot of symptoms: blurred vision, indiges­ tion, restlessness, backache, constipation, disorientation, headache, throat irritation, colds, dizziness, loss of appetite, palpitations, and spit­ ting up blood. The most common complaints of all were those suffered by Cattell: insomnia, tension, depression, and (especially) fatigue accom­ panied by an utter lack of energy.52 A salient quality of the illness was its episodic nature. Although some men suffered only one bout of neuras­ thenia, it was common to have recurrent breakdowns. Even when the symptoms ebbed, the men plagued by this illness watched anxiously for signs of its return. Their lives swung between periods of productivity with nervous good health and periods of illness with restful recupera­ tion. The disease did not occur randomly across the life cycle. Its most prominent contemporary student. Dr. George Beard, noted that his neurasthenic patients were largely aged fifteen to fifty. Its most assidu­ ous historian, F. G. Gosling, reports that the illness struck 68 percent of the people he studied when they were between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five.53 Although the episodes often continued into later life, neurasthenia—in its onset and its greatest severity—was especially a dis­ ease of youth and early middle age. George Beard gave the label neurasthenia to the disease m 1869, but the phenomenon of recurrent breakdowns, accompanied by the strange variety of symptoms later typed as neurasthemc, is evident in the histori­ cal record from the early years of the century. Francis Parkman and Henry James, Sr., were among the prominent sufferers in the antebel­ lum era. Such problems as fatigue, blurred vision, indigestion, headache, and depression were commonly associated complaints among evangeli­ cals and reformers as early as the 1820s. Lesser-known men, such as Boston lawyers Thomas and Theodore Russell, described symptoms, di­ agnoses, and cures that closely resembled those expenenced by men late in the century.54 Thus, George Beard was giving a name to a familiar collection of symptoms when he identified the disease m 1869. By the 1880s, neuras­ thenia reached near-epidemic proportions in the northern United States. Eventually, its male sufferers included Theodore Dreiser; William Dean Howells; Charles Evans Hughes; Heniy James, Jr.; William James; John LaFarge; Louis Sullivan; and Woodrow Wilson. Only after 1910 did the disease begin to disappear. Neurasthenia lumped together under one heading a variety of emo­ tional disturbances, neurotic tics, psychosomatic illnesses, and organic maladies. Yet, when the symptoms are seen m relation to the central

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problem of chronic exhaustion, they take on a coherent meaning. This, in fact, is how neurasthenic middle-class males saw themselves. These people believed that men broke down when, like Will Cattell, they suf­ fered from the strain of overwork. One Massachusetts woman expressed the common wisdom in this way: “C. [her husband] goes early to his of­ fice every weekday and returns late, quite ‘used up.’ I do not think he will give up his usual office hours before August unless he quite ‘breaks down,’ which I sometimes fear will be the case.” Again and again, men repeated this connection between overwork and breakdown as a way to explain neurasthenic health problems. William Dean Howells described his most serious breakdown as “the re­ sult of long worry and sleeplessness from overwork,” and Will Cattell’s son James attributed his own neurasthenic decline to the fact “that my constitution is not very strong and I at times overstrain it.” The common perception that too much work caused breakdowns was spread and rein­ forced by doctors, who saw overwork as the chief source of neurasthenia m professional men.55 This conclusion rested on a belief that was widely shared by doctors and neurasthenics alike: the human body was a closed system containing a finite amount of energy. Different activities drained energy at different rates, with the “brain work” that typified middle-class occupations pro­ viding the most notorious drain on the system.56 Some people, it was thought, had less energy enclosed within their systems and so were more susceptible to exhausting their supply and collapsing into the chronic lethargy of a breakdown. In the phrase of the time, too much brainwork “used up” a man.57 George Beard and other doctors who studied neurasthenia did not denigrate its victims or view it with alarm. Rather, they saw it as a symp­ tom of progress. In this medical view, the human race had developed more complex societies in the course of evolution, and these societies moved at a faster pace. The human nervous system pressed to keep up with its own external creations, and some men who worked at the pinna­ cle of social evolution (that is, in professional and executive work) broke down from the strain. This self-congratulatoiy theory found echoes in the writing of nonspecialists. James Cattell, for instance, asserted that the “men who do most in the world are seldom quite healthy—those who tiy to do all they can use themselves up.” As we shall see, there were men who disagreed with Beard and looked askance at neurasthenic males; but the doctors who treated the illness and those who theorized about it showed respect for the men who suffered from it. This contrasts sharply with the case of hysteria, an-

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other disease common at the same time as neurasthenia. Although the two ailments were similar m their mix of psychological and physiological symptoms, hysterics were mostly women, and the (male) doctors who treated them took a condescending—and sometimes condemning—atti­ tude toward them.58 Neurasthenia was not a source of pride, but it did not become a badge of shame until the veiy turn of the centuiy. A specially important fact about neurasthenia is that it was treatable. Physicians, friends, and relatives often recommended exercise for relief from neurasthenic symptoms.. It was important, however, that the exer­ cise should be moderate. James Cattell summarized the common opin­ ion about exercise as a cure, saying that a man who “spends a month ex­ ercising out of doors . . . gets himself in good health and good spirits, too. But when he continues taking a good deal of exercise . . . he gets into about the same condition as before he took too much.”99 There was such a thing, then, as “too much” exercise. As a cure, it needed to be regulated carefully. Moreover, when physicians and patients wrote about exercise, they did not mean strenuous workouts but long daily walks.60 This regimen was often combined with a vacation. In the larger scheme of contemporary therapeutics, the most important thing about exercise may have been that it forced the neurasthenic away from work. In fact, the most widely accepted remedy for neurasthenia was rest and relaxation. S. Weir Mitchell, a well-known Philadelphia neurologist, made the rest cure famous, and one of his patients, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, has made it notonous through her stoiy “The Yellow Wallpa­ per.” In this thinly fictionalized account of her treatm ent with Mitchell, Gilman described an enforced passivity in which her will was almost to­ tally surrendered to the doctor and her confinement nearly reached the point of sensoiy deprivation.61 Most physicians did not define rest m such extreme terms, especially not for men. Some ordered extensive bed rest without the severe isolation of Mitchell’s cure. Others simply pre­ scribed a cutback in work hours to be replaced by frequent breaks for sleep and repose. Still other physicians took rest to mean relaxation, not time in bed. Long vacations with fresh air, mild exercise, or simply an absence of care satisfied the demands of such doctors. In practice, a physician might combine these forms of rest in different ways. When the president of Beloit College, Edward Eaton, broke down in 1891, his doctor ordered him to leave work entirely and go to bed. As Eaton improved, the doctor said he could return to work, “provided, he uses care and discretion, and will take sufficient rest and exercise during the twenty-four hours to offset the amount of work done.” Apparently, Eaton did not follow his physician’s advice to use care and moderation,

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because eight months later he was under medical orders to take a long vacation.62 The importance of relaxation as a vital component of the rest cure for men is emphasized by the materials in Edward Eaton’s case. The fact that the ultimate prescription when bedrest failed was a trip to Europe suggests that Eatons doctor saw a separation from the cares of life as more important to recovery than physical inaction. This supposition is borne out by the physician’s direct advice to Eaton “dont worry, rest whenever fatigued,. . and feel that whatever happens is all right.” Eaton received similar advice from the people close to him. A good friend wrote before the European trip: “Forget that you have any cares.” When Eaton fell sick again in 1900, his son Allan urged him “to take a month or two off and find just the right place to rest and recuperate in. You ought not to have much to worry over; and it’s the pressure of such uneasiness that keeps one from really getting the most from an attempt to build up.”63 The rest cure for male neurasthenia meant a separation from the emotional strain of work as much as it did a recovery from physical de­ bility. It was combined with other measures in endless variety. Physi­ cians mixed rest not only with mild exercise but with dietary change, hy­ drotherapy, or one of a vast range of medicines.64 At its core, though, this was a disease of fatigue and its chief cure was rest and relaxation. Neurasthenia as a historical phenomenon was rediscovered by women’s historians, and apparently it was equally common among males and females. When F. G. Gosling studied the cases of over three hun­ dred neurasthenics reported in medical journals between 1870 and 1910, he found that male and female sufferers presented doctors with the same symptoms but received different diagnoses. Physicians attrib­ uted the symptoms of middle-class men to voluntary behavior; they named “overwork or mental labor” most frequently (34 percent of all cases) as the cause of neurasthenia in men of the professional classes. On the other hand, doctors were more likely to attribute female neuras­ thenia to biological causes, citing “genital/reproductive disturbances, in­ cluding exhaustion of childbirth” as the most common cause (31 percent of all cases).65 This sex-typed interpretation of the same symptoms re­ flects the common medical wisdom about gender in the nineteenth cen­ tury: men were active and created their own fates by assertions of indi­ vidual will; women were passive, imprisoned by the demands of their bodies.66 In spite of these cultural assumptions (or perhaps because of them), the doctors may have been correct in sensing the underlying problems

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of neurasthenics. Male sufferers were getting sick by fulfilling social ex­ pectations of work, “mental labor,” and “ambition”; women were falling ill because they had met the social expectation of childbirth. Some men and women, m other words, may have made themselves sick by perform­ ing their social roles. Viewed in this way, neurasthenia was a m atter of sex-role strain.67 To follow out this line "of thinking more completely for men, we should return to the precipitating cause of male neurasthenia: work. The basic structure of the illness, with overwork, tension, fatigue, break­ down, and extended rest, amounted to a rejection of work. The fact that this cycle was repeated over and over in so many lives only adds to the sense that neurasthenia involved men’s negative feelings about work. The comments of male neurasthenics and their doctors and fnends also make it clear that the sickness could be a response to the worry and strain associated with work as much as to the excess of work or the na­ ture of the work itself. One gets a stronger sense of the connection between work and male neurasthenia by noting that breakdowns often happened at times of vo­ cational crisis. William James suffered a serious collapse in his twenties when he reached an impasse between his father’s wish that he practice medicine and his own desire to pursue philosophy. The first of Francis Parkman’s periodic breakdowns happened when, in accordance with his father’s wishes, he began to practice law instead of following his own am­ bition to be a historian. Earlier in the centuiy, the great abolitionist Theodore Weld had suffered from two mysterious illnesses that liber­ ated him from careers that did not satisfy him; in both cases, his health returned with equally mysterious speed once he was freed from the dis­ agreeable work. Weld, like James and Parkman, found himself trapped in what Erik Erikson calls an “inauthentic identify”—one unsuited to a person s needs and values and chosen to please someone else. Neuras­ thenic symptoms allowed men to withdraw from undesirable callings, while avoiding direct conflict with fathers or other beloved figures.68 Men’s breakdowns justified other forms of proscribed behavior. When Edward Eaton’s “nervous collapse” in 1891 sent him to bed for many weeks, he wrote to his mother: “I hope I can go on gaining at home, as father says. I can now be justified in greater care of myself.”69 In a soci­ ety where a man had to offer justification for taking good care of himself, neurasthenic illness provided a valid excuse for rest and relaxation. O f course, it was quite possible that a man might enjoy relaxation for its own sake, whether he needed better self-care or not. The symptoms of

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nervous exhaustion also provided a socially acceptable explanation for such self-indulgence. Biographer Howard Feinstein noted, after careful study of the James family, that “energy and capital flowed freely for healing, while the sluices were clanged decisively shut for pleasure and idleness.”70 Young men like William and Heniy James not only found conventional careers repugnant, but relished the stimulation of European travel and the plea­ sures of reading and reflection. Each brother engaged in a complex process of invalidism and cure requiring enough recovery to justify the family’s expenditures and their own idle time, but not so much recovery that travel and rest might end too suddenly. This process, partly con­ scious and partly submerged, engaged the brothers for much of their youth and early adulthood. There is no evidence to suggest that neurasthenics ever composed a numerical majority of the population of middle-class males. If they had been that numerous, little professional work would have been com­ pleted in the late nineteenth century. Still, neurasthenia provided an outlet for that minority of men who found their work an ordeal, who were repelled or intimidated by the pursuit of success, who balked at strenuous exertion or took pleasure in a restful life. As Howard Fein­ stem has said, “Work was a problem for these Americans, and illness was one solution.”71 Work, however, lay at the heart of man’s role; if work was a problem, so was manhood. Male neurasthenia, in other words, contained a pro­ found element of gender meaning. Looked at in terms of gender, male neurasthenia amounted to a flight from manhood. It not only meant a withdrawal from the central male activity of work, but it also involved a rejection of fundamental manly virtues—achievement, ambition, domi­ nance, independence. A man who steered away from the middle-class work-world was avoiding a man’s proper place. Moreover, the neurasthenic man was retreating into the feminine realm. By going home to rest, he was seeking out the domestic space of women. He was also finding refuge in roles and behaviors marked “fe­ male”: vulnerability, dependence, passivity, invalidism. Even a man who traveled to recuperate was pursuing the life of cultivated leisure which was associated with women. Unwittingly, a neurasthenic man was invert­ ing the usual roles of the sexes, rejecting "male” and embracing “fe­ male.” The gender dimension of male neurasthenia becomes more clearly visible when one looks at the professions where male invalids clustered.

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Of the fifteen neurasthenic men studied here, all but one were engaged in callings—the ministry, the arts, scholarship—typed as feminine. In medical case studies of male sufferers, there were, to be sure, many businessmen—but, since that was the numerically the dominant occupa­ tional group within the middle class, their presence is not suipnsmg.72 To find neurasthenia in biographies and autobiographies of businessmen takes some doing, but to explore the annals of the clergy, scholarship, or the arts m the late nineteenth century is to find nervous exhaustion ram­ pant. Although no claim to statistical accuracy can be made here, it seems at least a sound working hypothesis that neurasthenics were ex­ ceptional among men of business but common (if not predominant) m the academy, the church, and the world of the arts. There is another dimension of male neurasthenia that involves age as well as gender—for the behavior of nervous invalids represented a re­ treat from manhood to boyhood.73 When a man returned home to rest and be nursed, he was repeating the boyhood experience of nurture and dependence in a place sheltered from the world. When he took an ex­ tended vacation to recover at the seaside or in the mountains, he was im­ mersing himself m certain classic values of boy culture: play, the rejec­ tion of care and responsibility, the pursuit of pleasure. As surely as male neurasthenia represented an embrace of femininity, it also meant a sym­ bolic return to many aspects of boyhood. Neurasthenia was not the only common form of male regression. The masculine culture of liquor, saloons, clubs, lodges, rituals, games, and prostitution was another avenue of return to boyhood. As a regressive pattern of behavior, though, it differed sharply from male neurasthenia. It bore no trace of a return to the domestic dependence of boyhood; on the contraiy, it harked back to boy culture’s rejection of home life and its emphasis on collective male enjoyment. The men’s world of play re­ turned a man to boys’ world in its hedonism, its boisterousness, its fre­ quent cruelty and competition, and its disdain for polite, “feminine” standards of behavior. It is important to stress that few of the men who suffered from “ner­ vous exhaustion” availed themselves of this other, more assertive form of regression. For Christian gentlemen who rejected such worldly plea­ sures, however, neurasthenia offered the most socially acceptable escape from the strain of work and the burdens of a grown man’s responsibili­ ties.74 This more “feminine” form of retreat must also have held attrac­ tions for men uncomfortable with the rough style of camaraderie that typified masculine culture. Neurasthenia differed from the masculine culture of escape in one

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other significant way: it was a full retreat, not a momentary one. The masculine world of relaxation and pleasure existed in a symbiotic rela­ tionship with the workplace, nurturing its friendships, mimicking its competition, and rooting itself m close physical proximity to marketplace activities. Neurasthenic breakdowns represented a sharp rejection of work, complete with physical separation, the loosening of business rela­ tionships, and the abandonment of the usual pace and style of work ac­ tivity. The man who broke down was making a statement, however un­ conscious, of his negative feelings about middle-class work and the val­ ues and pressures surrounding it. In doing so, he made a gesture of seri­ ous opposition to manhood in his own time.

Chapter 9

T H E MALE CU LTU R E OF T H E W O R K P L A C E

A

# \ nineteenth-century businessman would have felt out of place in the world of the eighteenth-century merchant. The pace would have made a Victorian man restless. In the eighteenth century, information moved slowly and transportation was unreliable, so the tempo of a mer­ chant’s work was languid and uneven. The setting, too, would have seemed unusual to a man of commerce from the nineteenth centuiy. A merchant’s office occupied the same building as his home, and, although his work spilled onto docks and into shops, those sites were always close to a man’s home. This meant that men conducted business near their wives and children. In addition, men’s business partners in the eigh­ teenth century were their brothers and cousins, their fathers and sons.1 Men who entered this world through connections of family and commu­ nity were the norm, and those ambitious men who burst in from the out­ side were viewed as exceptions. The dynamic marketplace of the nineteenth century reversed this pattern. Recruitment into the commercial arena became more open and competitive. At the same time, dramatic improvements in transportation and the flow of information speeded up the pace of work. With the legit­ imacy of self-interest also now established, the business world of the early nineteenth centuiy suddenly appeared to be hurtling forward m chaos and strife. Inevitably, this new workplace culture attracted critics. The most in­ fluential critique was the ideology of separate spheres. According to its

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principles, the true value of home was measured by its contrast with the cruelties and disappointments of the world and the corruption of the workplace. As one magazine article portrayed it, the public arena was a place where “we behold every pnnciple of justice and honor, and even the dictates of common honesty disregarded, and the delicacy of our moral sense is wounded; we see the general good, sacrificed to the ad­ vancement of personal interest.” Other critics described the middleclass work world in more figurative language as a place where “the dark clouds” yielded “the peltings of the pitiless storm /” However it was de­ scribed, the world earned a reputation as a harsh place where cruelty and deceit held sway.2 It is from such descriptions that we have drawn our image of the nineteenth-century marketplace. Yet we need to recognize that the au­ thors of these descriptions were people who spent their days outside the arena of middle-class work, and that their vision does not fully measure the feelings of the men who worked there nor completely represent their experience. Many middle-class men enjoyed their work and, indeed, often rel­ ished it. These men, after all, made up the most powerful class in their society. To the extent that work satisfaction is based on a sense of the ef­ ficacy of ones efforts, they had every reason to enjoy their work. Be­ sides, men enjoyed a certain kind of protection: years of immersion in the cultures of boyhood and of male youth accustomed them to the ceaseless competitive striving, the uncertain fortunes, and the assertions of self that were typical of their work world. The “peltings of the pitiless storm” left many men damp but undeterred. The language of the separate-spheres doctrine can mislead us about the texture of men’s work experience in another important way. By por­ traying men as solitary figures pounded by the worldly storm of rivalry and deceit, the imagery of separate spheres leads us to think of men in the marketplace as isolated beings. In so doing, it has deepened the im­ pact of the figurative language of another cultural doctrine: the cult of the self-made man. The image of the lone male rising steadily by his own effort from a humble cottage to the mansions of wealth and power has profoundly shaped our notion of a successful man’s work life in the nine­ teenth century. Of course, this image expressed a real perception: a man in the marketplace was judged by his own behavior. Still, it is a mistake to confuse individual action with solitary action. The work world created by the market economy was a fundamentally so­ cial one. A man there was rarely alone. The work of the merchant, the lawyer, the politician, and the banker was usually interpersonal and

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some of it was unrelentingly so. Many men had partners, most had sub­ ordinates, some had face-to-face rivals, all had clients, and, in differing degrees, all of them were clients themselves. By the later years of the century, growing numbers were working m the offices of large organiza­ tions. This deeply social world was completely dominated—in numbers, power, and cultural influence—by men. As a subculture, it was a dis­ tinctly male arena. Historians who have studied the structure and habits of the middle-class workplace have always approached it as a product of economic rationality, class interest, or professional imperatives. We also need to understand it as a product of its own masculinity. A brief look at three types of work settings—the midcentuiy publishing busmess, the antebellum judicial circuit, and the world of high finance at the end of the centuiy—can demonstrate the male sociability of the middle-class work world.

Male Sociability and Men's Work A book publisher in the middle decades of the nineteenth century prob­ ably did more solitaiy work than the average businessman. He wrote let­ ters, worked his account books, and read manuscnpts from prospective authors. Yet his social contacts were frequent and sometimes intensive. His intercourse with his partners (if he had them) and his clerks was constant. He had to be in touch frequently with printers, binders, ship­ pers, and local booksellers. He saw authors and periodical editors and visited the publishers’ trade shows, which had their origins in this era.3 A lot of this social busmess contact took place by prearrangement in offices and other formal meeting places, but a good deal of it happened casually, or at least outside of business offices. The biographer of Boston publisher James T. Fields describes some of Fields’s time away from the office evocatively: Frequently he visited newspaper editors to consult about advertising, a book notice, or merely to maintain good relations with chit-chat. Always there was Mrs. Abner’s Coffee House just around the comer. Here he took buyers, authors, reviewers, and fnends and often spent many hours with them over steaming buns and cups of fresh-brewed coffee. There were after all many compensations for dull penods over the account books.4

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Fields lived in an era when the business areas of a city could still be covered on foot, so the amount of incidental contact and the number of brief visits “merely to maintain good relations with chit-chat” was large. Also, there were eating and drinking places where businessmen would gather. In addition to visiting coffee-houses, publishers went to hotels, restaurants, taverns, and private clubs to mix work with sociability. Fi­ nally, Fields and his wife, Annie, excelled at a form of business entertain­ ment which grew steadily in importance throughout the century: the carefully arranged dinner party. Although some such parties included the men’s wives, many dinners were “stag” parties, and others allowed only the hostess to join the men.5 Even at the mixed-sex dinner parties, men and women kept separate company before and after they came to the table. Here as throughout a publisher’s day, male work and sociabil­ ity mixed promiscuously, while men’s and women’s worlds were scrupu­ lously kept apart. The business life of a publisher was quite staid compared to that of most antebellum lawyers. Outside the major American cities, lawyers before the Civil War “rode the circuit.” A judge and a troop of lawyers left a central town or city and, for months at a time, would travel to­ gether from one place to another to hold court. One contemporary de­ scribed a circuit court as having “the ravishing beauty of a circus, the majestic grandeur of a caravan, the spiritual fascination of a camp m eet­ ing and the bewitching horror of a well conducted dog fight.” The lawyers of the circuit made up a vivid social world of their own. They shared wagons, work, food, and even beds. Most of all, they shared each other’s days and lives for months on end. When odd moments presented themselves during the day, they would quickly sit down “to enjoy a game of cards with more or less drinks by the side.” And when the workday was over, the lawyers gathered in a nearby tavern or hotel room, where they ate, drank, told stones, recounted the day’s events, argued law and politics, and even held mock trials. As the judicial caravan rumbled slowly onward to the next town, the men continued to entertain each other with “long discussions and exchanges of professional talk.”6 This subculture had its own important social distinctions. The judge or perhaps an eminent attorney presided informally over the after-hours life of the circuit, and if he found a lawyer wanting in personal or profes­ sional qualities, he would cut the man out of the group. Like any other fraternity, this one was exclusive.7 Back home in the county seat, the structure of work life and personal commitments did not allow for the fraternal culture of the circuit in its

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fullest form. Still, even in the sedentaiy life away from the circuit, the bonds forged on the road linked the local attorneys, and the mores and habits that governed itinerant legal society shaped the culture of the bar.8 This was especially true o f the alternating rhythm of competition and kinship that bound lawyers in the same locale. In his autobiography. Lew Wallace reminisced about his fnendship with another young attorney, Daniel Vorhees. The two men were courthouse rivals m Covington, In­ diana: “Our bouts, usually in some justice’s court, were frequent. They were rough-and-tumble, or, in wrestling parlance, catch-as-catch-can; sometimes almost to the fighting point.” But Vorhees and Wallace estab­ lished clear distinctions between professional enmity and personal re­ gard. As Wallace recalled: I can yet hear the creak of the door of my office as, without a knock, [Dan] threw it open and walked m—generally, the night of the day of an encounter. . I can hear the greeting with which he threw himself on a chair: ‘Well, Lew, I got you to-day,” or “you got me,” according to the fact. “Come, now, put your work up and let’s have the fiddle.”9 And Wallace would oblige with Voorhees's favorite tunes. So close were their personal bonds that Wallace even helped Vorhees and his new wife when they entertained for die first time. The courtroom rivalry and the personal friendship were thus different elements in a complex form of relation, based on careful management of hostility and affection. Local fraternities of the bar maintained their strength and solidarity because men learned to gather up their hostilities and redirect them through barbed humor, sharp debate, and the closing of ranks against undesir­ ables. We have already seen pointed exclusion at work in the banning of illsuited lawyers from the fellowship of the circuit; there were other forms of exclusion as well, which built solidarity and channeled divisive anger toward safer targets. Historian Robert Wiebe has described this process m his analysis of Abraham Lincoln’s experiences on the circuit in Illinois. A crucial part of the Lincoln mythology holds that the man was an inveterate storyteller and a master of droll, folksy humor, and Wiebe affirms that this was indeed a part of Lincoln’s behavior. He also fills in an unexpected detail: Lincoln’s stones were, m the words of one contemporary, “generally on the smutty order.”10 Well known for his shyness with women, Lincoln made himself comfortable m mixed com­ pany, according to his law partner James Herndon, by drawing men into

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a corner to hear one of “his characteristic stories.” As Wiebe says, the fact that Lincoln “never told lewd stories in front of women merely un­ derlined their fraternity-binding function.”11 The close fellowship of the antebellum bar depended, then, on exclu­ siveness for its cohesion. An incompetent or unscrupulous lawyer or a bad fellow was cut out of the fraternity and could even be frozen out of business. The exclusion of women linked the bitterest of rivals in the sol­ idarity of a male profession. And, unlike the ubiquitous clubs of boyhood and youth, this club had real power. At the end of the century, many of these qualities were still present in the world of mergers and high finance. Charles Flint, an industrial fi­ nancier who was known as “The Father of Trusts,” describes in his auto­ biography the all-male world where he spent his days. Flint alternates between tales of cleverness and manipulation and stories about the loy­ alty and conviviality that bound the nations most powerful businessmen. He recounts his own deceptions lovingly and explains how his quick­ witted trickery kept others off balance in negotiations. Throughout the memoir, Flint offers tips on where to situate the parties to a mediation while talks are in progress and how to convince someone you are shifting your bargaining position when you are really not.12 Still, for all of his competitive tricks, Flint insists on the fundamental importance of trust between men. “In no place in the world,” he writes, “does more money pass on oral agreement than in Wall Street. If a man s word is not as good as his bond, the high finance of Wall Street is no place for him . . . the man who breaks his word is done, and done for­ ever.” Faith in a man’s word loomed large in this world because so much significant business was done pnvately, man-to-man. As Flint explains, “Many of the most important transactions [on Wall Street] are com­ pleted long before the papers are drawn; they are consummated during informal talks that do not rise to the dignity of conferences.”13 These informal talks happened within the context of male sociability. They took place in train cars, on station platforms, m hotel lobbies; often they happened at formal social occasions. One setting that Charles Flint favored was the dinner party. The dinners were times when men (for these were segregated occasions) gathered to joke and chat about poli­ tics, sports, and fnends while sometimes talking business as well. Of the few rituals at these dinners, the most important was after-dinner speak­ ing. Guests were called on to say a few “good words,” each hoping to match the other in eloquence or—more often—in cleverness and wit. In this convivial atmosphere, men made new business contacts and entered discussions that might lead to significant transactions.14

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Another setting where Flint blended business with pleasure was the hunting trip. Compared to dinner parties, such trips contained more of close friendship and less of new acquaintance. The long hours of walk­ ing, riding, and waiting allowed for relaxed conversation that often turned to business. Flint’s hunting companions appeared repeatedly m other contexts as partners in artful schemes and high-pressure deals; the expeditions in the wilds confirmed alliances as much as they produced new strategy.15

As these glimpses of various work worlds show, the shared activity of middle-class men was not limited to the workplace. There was also a male world of play and relaxation, a sociable realm that was physically separate from the sites of business but still tightly connected to the life of the marketplace. This masculine recreational culture flourished in many settings. Early in the centuiy, it flowed m and out of taverns, coffee-houses, and men’s boardinghouses. By the last third of the cen­ tuiy, this culture of play found new homes in restaurants and exclusive saloons, in fraternal lodges and elite men’s clubs, and (for younger men) m the new athletic clubs that were also a part of the collective life of male youth. Men shared a variety of activities when they mingled in these settings. They played cards or billiards together, and some men enjoyed wagering on these games. A smaller contingent developed a passion for gambling on any activity or event. Many clubs staged ambitious dramatic produc­ tions or satine revues; in the antebellum era, formal debates and read­ ings of literary works were popular.16 After the Civil War, sports became a dominant passion shared by men of the comfortable classes. Baseball and rowing were especially popular among the younger men, while hunting and fishing attracted males of all ages. Spectator sports were also a growing preoccupation m postbellum America. Horseracing and boxing had devoted followers, but it was baseball that truly caught the fancy of middle-class men. Some said that baseball was a male obsession second only to business.17 Meanwhile, the rapid growth of fraternal lodges made formal ritual a common activity within men’s world. Throughout the centuiy, there were also middleclass males who engaged in socially proscribed activities. The urban demimonde of prostitution and drug use, of heavy gambling and homo­ sexual nightlife drew a portion of business and professional men, though they were probably small in number compared to the devotees of card games or baseball.18

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Two activities formed the core of m ens recreational culture: drinking and conversation. Liquor was the universal solvent of male play. It helped to relax men as they took a break from the intensity of work. It accompanied almost every activity in this male recreational world; it helped to lower inhibitions about socially proscribed activity; and, above all, it encouraged men’s personal expressiveness.19 In the latter connection, liquor eased the way for the most important of pastimes in the male culture of play—conversation. Men clearly en­ joyed their talk with one another. They told stones and shared the latest jokes. Men seemed especially to enjoy the cut and thrust of clashing wits, sometimes m serious debate but especially in teasing, playful humor. Verbal jousting gave men a way to prove their shrewdness, enter­ tain their fellows, play a competitive game, vent their hostilities, and ex­ press their affection in the same rough fashion that had typified male in­ teraction since boyhood. These battles of wit brought bourgeois men most deeply into the realm of play, unbound by formal rules and full of spontaneity.20 Verbal jousting, then, was a popular style of conversation between men, and its content was usually a playful contempt for ones fellows. Of course, there was more to men’s conversation than just mutual dis­ paragement. They bantered about anything that caught their fancy: poli­ tics, sports, common acquaintances, the economic climate. One topic that especially held their interest was women. Men sometimes rhap­ sodized about the charms and virtues of the “fair sex,” writing songs and poems together to hymn their praises; but the talk about women was often much less flattering. At men’s clubs, members complained to one another about the dullness of mixed company and the limits women placed on the enjoyment of life. They bemoaned their domestic trials and, like young bachelors in love, sought to divine the whims of the women in their lives. In the company of their own land, men felt safe to vent tension about their sexual feelings. We have seen that sexually charged humor was much in demand among circuit-riding lawyers and that Abraham Lincoln used such jokes as a way to keep the men to­ gether in mixed company. The same ribald humor also served as a com­ mon bond among the members of men’s clubs.21 If one can take ritual as a stylized form of conversation among its participants, then women also served as a chief conversational topic in the fraternal lodges of the late nineteenth century. The rituals of the Masons and other orders completely dominated lodge meetings, and they were focused in great measure on men’s feelings about women. In particular, these rites dwelt implicitly on men’s discomfort with their

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female-dominated upbringing and expressed the wish for an all-male family—a wish that was fulfilled both m the outcome of the ritual and in the fact of lodge membership. Like the simpler, more direct forms of conversation about women, fraternal rites expressed negative feelings that rarely found an outlet in other arenas of everyday life.22 Even on a subject that tapped deep, common feeling, though, talk did not always come naturally for middle-class males. Given the seriousness of their work and the pressure on males to do things, the idea of simple conversation without larger purpose was not an easy prospect. It was here that liquor helped most in lowering inhibitions; and the many pop­ ular men’s activities—a dinner, a hand of cards, a visit to a sporting event, a preparation for a debate or dramatic production—offered con­ texts for conversation. A man might feel freer to banter if he was doing something else at the same time. Middle-class men valued these devices for loosening up and engaging in spontaneous conversation, because so­ ciability was the vital heart of the world of shared play, which they en­ joyed passionately. As much as this was a world of relaxation and amusement, it always existed in relation to the world of work. In fact, the two worlds were inti­ mately entwined. The restaurants, taverns, and coffee-houses that men frequented were close to their places of work, and business spilled read­ ily from one setting to the other. In larger cities, men who were engaged in certain forms of work, such as law or finance, gathered themselves into specific districts, and this made it likely that men who met on the street or over a dnnk were rivals mid friends from the same Une of work. In smaller cities and towns, too, most commerce and professional busi­ ness was located in the same neighborhood. Physical proximity and the chance encounters that resulted served to blur the boundaries between men’s worlds of work and play.23 When the culture of male recreation organized itself in fraternal lodges and men’s clubs, the new institutions tried to make the bound­ aries between work and play more distinct by enacting rules banning the discussion of business at the club or lodge. While this may have had an inhibiting effect, we know that men did discuss their work at men’s clubs, and one can scarcely imagine that it was never a topic of conversa­ tion at fraternal lodges. The temptation to continue a discussion from the workday in the moments before a lodge meeting must have been im­ possible to resist.24 Clubs and lodges served business needs m one other way. When a man searched for new chents, for a contact m another line of trade, or for a new lawyer or doctor, he would naturally begin among the men he

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knew—and many of the men he knew were his friends and associates from the lodge or the club. Thus, even if a man obeyed the rules and never discussed business, he would still turn to a lawyer who impressed him at the club before he sought out a stranger. The male worlds of play and work were both together and apart. They had separate physical locations and moved at different paces. The pri­ mary purpose of one was serious accomplishment, the chief end of the other was enjoyment. Yet the two worlds flowed readily into one an­ other; they were distinctly male realms, based on the same shared val­ ues, customs, and styles of behavior. Together, they formed a sharp con­ trast to womens domestic realm. When people spoke of “the world” in nineteenth-century terms, they were casting a broad net over the mar­ ketplace and the male culture of recreation with which it was so closely integrated. Middle-class men did not create this all-male world out of whole cloth. A close look at the culture of the workplace and the social world attached to it reveals how much this world resembled the cultures of boyhood and male youth that formed important phases of men’s earlier experience. The connections between the work world and the earlier worlds of boyhood and youth were sometimes quite concrete and per­ sonal. The mam bookbinder for James T. Fields, the publisher, was George Fields, his brother. Like many brothers of this era, they had both moved to the same locale as adults. Even where kin connections did not link boyhood to the world of men’s work, one’s place of origin could fasten the bond. For example, men from New Hampshire who moved to Boston tended to settle in the same neighborhoods and boardinghouses. They provided each other not only with friendship but with ready business connections. And where family, town, and neighborhood did not tie boyhood to manhood, college and fraternal connections could provide the link. The pioneering neurol­ ogist Alphonso Rockwell tells of how he met his renowned partner, George Beard, in medical school during the 1860s. They had been brothers of the same fraternity at different colleges “and our badges brought us together. Had it not been for this tie the acquaintance proba­ bly never would have been formed, and the work of Beard and Rockwell . would never have taken form.”25 Of course, nineteenth-century America was a mobile nation, and most middle-class men did not live out their adult years in the company of childhood companions. Still, the broad similarity of experience in male groupings earlier m life laid a common foundation on which the all-male workplace could be constructed in later years. Most obviously.

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those earlier male cultures provided models of sex segregation to which men turned by habit m building and sustaining their public world. M ens domain was also notable for the clear contrast it posed to the female world of the home. Its combative energy, its free expressions of hostility and self-assertion, and the casual cruelty of its rivalries differed widely from the manners and values of the domestic realm to which men returned every night. These very same qualities betrayed a close similar­ ity between the culture of the middle-class workplace and the cultures of boyhood and male youth. Men in the marketplace engaged in endless small competitions—for business, for advancement, or in the playful, competitive testing of wits that formed a cornerstone of male sociability. These constant competitive tests resulted in continuous judgments by peers that, more than anything else, determined a mans status m his profession.26A man had to make his own way, looking after his needs in a world of shifting alliances, yet each participant was an individual actor who needed the help of other actors in pursuit of his own good. These difficult circumstances for personal relationships produced one of the most striking resemblances between the social culture of the mar­ ketplace and the all-male worlds of earlier life: a man had to maintain a judicious balance between cooperation and competition. In more per­ sonal terms, he needed to channel his aggressive impulses in a way that would not tear the social fabric of which he was part. Relationships de­ veloped much as they did in boyhood and youth, mixing combat with friendship, rivalry with nurture, competition with camaraderie. The joys of sociability became almost indistinguishable from energetic con­ tentiousness, and even the warmest of friendships contained an impor­ tant measure of professional self-interest. Although loyalty was perhaps less passionate and more enduring than it was among boys, men in the marketplace viewed their friends also as allies. They counted on the fi­ delity of these bonds, and, when alliances shifted, men often felt greater anger at the treacheiy of old friends than at the rivalry of foes.27 One should not, of course, understand the masculine culture of the marketplace as a simple replica of boyhood and youth cultures. There were profoundly important differences between them. Boys’ shared world was one of pure play, and, although the world of male youth had more conscious elements of preparation and study, it was still a domain that existed largely to serve its own purposes. By contrast, the world of men was serious business. There was money to be made or lost. There were wives and children to be supported. The status and reputation of a whole family and not just an individual man were at stake. There was power to be gained for its own sake and also for the sake of setting pub-

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lie policy or commercial strategy, which in turn affected many other lives. In its seriousness of purpose and consequence, the male culture of the workplace was emphatically different from the cultures of boyhood and male youth. Still, those earlier worlds served as models, precedents, and realms of shared experience for men to draw upon in building and sustaining a common culture in the marketplace. This male domain, although it was based on the individual as the unit of action, was a world of profound interdependence. Historians have long recognized this as an economic fact, but we also need to understand it as a social fact. Men’s days were often spent in intense social interac­ tion, and they did their work within dense networks of collaboration, contest, and mutual influence. They accepted—and believed devoutly in—personal responsibility for their own success and failure, and yet their preparation for careers, their daily conduct of responsibility, and the effects of their actions were all part of a tight web of social contin­ gencies. The experience of boy culture and male youth associations pre­ pared a man for individual action, but they also accustomed him to mu­ tual influence, cooperative ventures, and regular social interaction with his male peers.

Work Life in the Ministry and Medicine The energetic bustle and competition of the marketplace provided the dominant model of middle-class work m the nineteenth century. In this arena, men of commerce, law, and finance struggled for success. Politics, though not precisely a marketplace activity, operated on the same com­ petitive model, drew its population largely from men who worked in the market, and had constant exchanges of influence with the domains of capital and law. There were, however, two substantial professions that operated outside the marketplace: medicine and the ministry. These professions were overwhelmingly male, and they demanded both “manly reason” and book learning. However, they conducted their activities away from concentrations of men and power, and they directed their ac­ tivities as much at nurture as at competition. Finally, they conferred lower status on a man than other nineteenth-centuiy professions. Medi­ cine and the ministry provide object lessons in the role played by gender in the culture of middle-class work. The minister plied his calling far from worldly rivalry and commotion. This isolation from the self-seeking aggression of the marketplace was part of the appeal of the ministry when compared to law as a profession.

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In 1821, Reverend Joseph Tuckerman of Massachusetts described his typical workday in the small-town parish that he served. In the morning, he would go “from the breakfast table to [his] study, remain there till one o’clock,—then dine,—then pass the afternoon with [his] parish­ ioners,—and return to enjoy the hours till bed time, in reading with [his] dear wife and children. This [was] indeed a very simple course of life, but a very happy one.”28 There was no rivalry in Tuckermans self-de­ scribed day, no apparent struggle, no aggressive assertion of self-interest. Work for Tuckerman consisted of two components, each of them dis­ tant from the activities of the marketplace. One component was the time he spent m his study reading, writing, and reflecting. The other was the visiting that he did with his parishioners. The social interactions of the minister were different from those of the lawyer or merchant. First of all, most ministerial visits took place in peoples homes. The minister rarely approached an office or a countinghouse to pay a cleri­ cal call. Secondly, the content of the minister’s visits had less to do with self-advancement or competitive advantage than with matters of die soul and the heart, with emotional or spiritual nurture. Finally, m an era when women formed a large majority of active Protestants, these minis­ terial calls were paid to women more than to men.29 Thus, nineteenthcentury ministers spent their days at home alone or in predominantly feminine company, plying such womanly qualities as sympathy and nur­ ture for the good of others. Clearly, the minister’s tasks placed him at a great distance from the men who subjected themselves to the daily pressures of the market. The decline in the status of the ministry from the late eighteenth century and through die nineteenth derived from many causes, but the daily associa­ tion of the clergy with women and with the traits and cultural spacés al­ lotted to women must surely have had an impact on the popular view of their profession.30 Still, even the ministiy bore some imprint of the free-market model and partook of some of die goals and habits that were culturally appro­ priate to men. Throughout the century, local churches competed for membership, sometimes fiercely and sometimes in a low-keyed, fnendly rivalry. The doctrinal wars that erupted periodically in the first half of the century added another competitive element to the ministers job.31 The marketplace model emerged as an influence on the ministry m another way. In this period, ministers were employed increasingly on a contract basis, instead of enjoying the virtual lifetime tenure of their colonial predecessors. The new arrangement subjected ministers to many of the same pressures that would have come with an open compe-

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tition. Now, a man of the cloth had to be a self-salesman and a politician; neither role was compatible with a ministers duty to be a candid spiri­ tual adviser and a sympathetic support in times of trouble. While this sit­ uation did not subject the clergy to the same daily pressures as work in the marketplace, it at least created the potential for a similar kind of struggle in pastoral employment.32 Finally, the growth of church bureaucracies in the nineteenth century created a new competition for clerical office. Leading divines had always earned on spirited rivalries for influence and prestige, but now there were ministers contesting for positions of formal power in many large denominations. A late nineteenth-century physician wrote of his pastor that “he missed the prize for which all good Methodists who are in any degree eligible are always fighting, a bishopric.”33 Thus, even a profession as separate by nature from worldly strife and aggression as the ministry felt the influence of the dominant market­ place metaphor. The daily life of a nineteenth-century pastor was dis­ tinctly different from that of a merchant or lawyer, but the pastor was still not free in his aspirations from the effects of his own time and place. Like ministers, doctors plied their trade outside the personal nexus of the nineteenth-century marketplace. They were not directly men of commerce, nor did they live on their services to merchants and manu­ facturers as many bankers and lawyers did. Moreover, their primary so­ cial contacts in à days work were with patients and their families. Until hospitals began to pull physicians into constant relation with each other late in the century, a doctor in a town or a small city could go for days at a time without seeing others of his profession. His work did create a good deal of social interaction. Alphonso Rock­ well recalled his boyhood doctor in the small Connecticut town where he grew up in the 1840s: “He went around on horseback with his oldfashioned medicine cases balanced across his horses back.” His social style differed from that of the twentieth-century physician: “Unlike the doctor of today, he was never in a hurry. Every movement was deliberate and he had time to talk over the news of the day.”34 The physician, like his contemporaries in business and law, mixed work and sociability. Still, a doctor interacted less with men than with women. The female sex played the dominant role m the physical care of the family, and—es­ pecially in the households that could best afford the attentions of a doc­ tor—women were far more likely than their husbands to be present when a physician visited the home. Moreover, as the medical profession insinuated itself deeply into the process of childbirth, its practitioners confronted themselves with a growing proportion of women.35 Thus,

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most nineteenth-century doctors conducted their business at a signifi­ cant distance from the male ambience of the commercial district and courthouse. This segregation did not mean, though, that physicians were removed from the influence of the marketplace. They performed on a fee-forservice basis, and their business was openly competitive. In any given lo­ cale, a known group of doctors vied for a limited num ber of patients. In a small-town setting, a new physician had to build a practice slowly, rely­ ing on word-of-mouth and on his own connections. In this context, the doctor's character and personality became crucial to his success. To put it differently, he had to sell himself as well as his abilities in a competi­ tive market.36 Physicians commonly built a practice by establishing a reputation that mixed professional competence with personal care, but there were other, less scrupulous competitive methods. In an age of uncertain med­ ical standards, many doctors resorted to “heroic” treatm ents that threat­ ened the lives of patients more than the diseases from which they suf­ fered. According to one historian, “the practitioner who most impressed an ordinaiy community was apt to be the man who came in, adminis­ tered overdoses of dangerous chemicals, then was lucky enough to have his patients pull narrowly and therefore dramatically through to recov­ ery.” Local rivalries also led established physicians to resort to “falsehood and defamation of character” in discouraging newcomers on their turf.37 The irony is that this ill feeling might have been diminished by greater social and professional contact between physicians. Among lawyers, who were drawn together in the courthouse or on the circuit, the sense of fraternity was generally greater than it was among local doc­ tors. By contrast, physicians were isolated rivals who lacked the chance to share experiences, offer professional stimulation, or vent their rivalrous feelings in ritual combat.38 Locked into the m etaphor of the m arketplace but lacking its forms of male sociability and strug­ gle, nineteenth-century doctors had a strange relation to the middleclass work world of their era, being neither quite in it nor outside it. In this way, the medical profession and the ministry of the nmeteenthcentuiy North were alike. Although medicine stood m closer proximity to the culture and pressures of the marketplace, the two professions shared important qualities. The essence of each was the work of nurture. Both claimed to offer special wisdom about ministering to human needs. In performing this work, the practitioners of both professions entered the company of women at least as often as they did the company of men; and they were, as we have just noted, isolated from the fraternity of com-

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bat and conviviality that typified the male culture of the marketplace. The nineteenth-century professions of divinity and medicine shared one other trait: each conferred a lesser social status on its practitioners than did the callings of business, law, finance, and politics.39 One com­ mon dimension of this status problem was surely gender. Nurture and care were womens tasks, while men were expected to wield power and wealth—elements that characterized the higher-status vocations. Also, doctors and ministers kept female company far more than did men of law and commerce. In a world where power belonged to men and being male conferred a certain prestige, it is not surprising that professions linked to women conferred lower status than the callings in which males engaged with other males. All of these professions, of course, belonged to men, but some were seen as more manly—and thus more presti­ gious—than others.

Defending the Boundaries of Gender By cultural fiat and the preference of individual men, the middle-class workplace was a male realm. As such, it had boundaries that needed de­ fending. In other words, men needed ways to keep women out or to keep them isolated. Men wanted not only to protect their power but to defend the integrity of their cultural world as they conceived it. The male defense of gender turf is an important aspect of the culture of the middle-class workplace. There were three ways in which women breached the boundaries of men’s public domain. First of all, women entered this realm with full so­ cial sanction as consumers of the goods and services sold by men. In­ deed, “social sanction” may not be a strong enough term. Increasingly as the century passed, women were expected to shop for their families, so they had to buy these goods and services in order to supply their house­ holds and meet their personal needs; and men had to sell these goods and services to women or they would fail in business.40 Merchants de­ vised a shifting set of tactics for structuring these constant and utterly necessary female incursions into the male domain. Men reacted very dif­ ferently to the two other forms of turf invasion by women: the crusade to end mens monopoly of the vote and the quest for a place in the learned professions. Most middle-class men deplored these female intrusions and reacted to them with hostility. Men had intricate and varied strategies for dealing with the presence of women in their world as customers. These strategies were aimed at

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two problems that female customers created for a man. First, as a m atter of power, the merchant-client relationship put male and female on roughly equal footing, with each needing something from the other. For the merchant as a man, it was not usual, comfortable, or socially accept­ able to have approximately the same face-to-face power as a woman. A m erchants strategies for handling .female customers also ad­ dressed a second problem: the manner in which a storeowner and his client dealt with each other. Especially in the era before fixed prices were the expected custom, merchant and customer bargained. In these self-interested negotiations, each used guile, wit, and rational calcula­ tion to extract the best possible deal from the other. The structure of life in small towns and city neighborhoods may have sometimes sup­ pressed the crudest elements of bargaining, but they probably never lay too far beneath die surface. For a man to engage a woman in such a re­ lationship, however, violated the polite norms of conduct between the sexes and flatly contradicted a man’s conception of femininity.41 A man could feel comfortable m a bargaining relationship with anodier man be­ cause he had been engaging other males all his life in friendly contests for personal advantage; such a combination of rivalry and good fellow­ ship formed the structure of relationships between men. No equivalent existed for a man’s relationships widi women, and it was this absence that a merchant’s strategy of customer relations had to confront. One aspect of this strategy was to drape one's dealings with female shoppers m elaborate courtesy. Such courtesy hid underlying negotia­ tions from view, even as it paid ceremonious homage to the conventions of gender that diose negotiations violated. When Henry Dwight Sedg­ wick described the manner of a floor manager at a fabric store, he was portraying this strategic courtesy. Exaggerating for effect, Sedgwick had the man bowing politely and effusing: “Yes, Madam, lightweight, floweiy chintz, this way, Madam! Here, Madam! Mr. Snooks, will you be so kind as to attend to this lady, a veiy valued customer? I am sure, Madam, that Mr. Snooks will be able to satisfy your wants. Good day, Madam.” He took his leave, noted Sedgwick, with a “respectful bow, and a stately walk away.” Unctuousness in this degree would have driven away as many customers as it drew, but Sedgwick’s burlesque presented a core of real­ ity: one treated one’s female customers with fullest courtesy.42 Another element in the merchant’s strategy for dealing with women was to “satisfy [her] wants.” Of course, this was simply good business. But if one could anticipate a female customer’s wishes, one could achieve an additional benefit: short-circuiting more elaborate dealings and thus limiting their inherent discomfort. A good salesman had “to

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know the personal interest of each customer.” One such man, a book­ seller, could even predict the kind of book a new customer would buy simply by gauging the persons appearance and manner of speech. Of course, these techniques applied to male as well as female customers. But merchants relied on them more heavily in dealing with women, since they had no preexisting model of how to deal with them m busi­ ness situations.43 Better yet, the successful merchant with a large enough store and a big enough income could retreat to his office and leave customer contact to salesmen. Merchants did not hire a sales force to buffer them from fe­ male customers; the practice began for reasons of business efficiency. But a layer of salesmen did have the happy side-effect of leaving the un­ comfortable and anomalous relationship with the female customer to other men of lesser power and rank. In the final decades of the century, when department stores and other giant emporia emerged as a revolution in retail merchandising, the rela­ tion of merchant to female customer changed. The great retail houses created vast womens worlds, environments based on an understanding of the needs and pleasures of female shoppers. These were feminine en­ vironments not only m their merchandise, their appurtenances, and their predominance of customers, but also increasingly in their sales forces. Department stores became female enclaves in the public realm, places where women could feel comfortable together in the midst of a man’s world. Their isolation helped to preserve a sense of separate spheres even where women invaded the arenas of commerce in massive numbers.44 Viewed from a male perspective, the growth of a female sales force behind the counters buffered men from the discomforts of a public, in­ strumental relationship with women. The merchant was left with a rela­ tion to his women employees, but it was not the same kind he might have had with his female patrons. A customer and a retailer were mutu­ ally dependent m a roughly equal relationship; a merchant (or store manager) and his sales clerk were employer and employee, a clearly un­ equal power relation. A businessman could feel more comfortable m this connection because its rules were familiar and w'ell established and (not coincidentally) because it left him m a superior position to women in­ stead of floundering for comfortable behavior in a situation of relative equality. Literally and figuratively, a female employee was easier to dis­ miss than a female customer. Thus, even though a nineteenth-century retailer could not keep women out of his world, he discovered a device that made him feel more comfortable with a feminine presence.45

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Lawyers faced no such problems with their female clients.40 First of all, they had far fewer such clients than a retailer did. Also, attorneys (unlike merchants) had command of an arcane body of knowledge that tipped the businessman-client relation heavily in their favor. As the nineteenth-century feminist Antoinette Brown Blackwell wrote, the law was “wholly masculine,” and its language expressed the “thoughts, feel­ ings, [and] biases of men.”47 Finally and most dramatically, many of the im portant professional contacts between women and the legal profes­ sion in the nineteenth century took place in that most masculine of set­ tings, the courtroom. The courtroom was a highly structured arena. The actors in it were there only by invitation. A patriarchal figure, cloaked in robes (and in the mystique of wisdom and power that came with them) presided; this judge was always a man. The chief actors under his purview were lawyers, who were male with virtually no exceptions. The method by which the court arrived at truth and justice was adversarial: a lawyer competed with every allowable device to prove his own case right and that of his opponent wrong. Certainly, the use of fierce struggle to achieve justice was a masculine strategy, far removed from the collabora­ tive, consensual style that women learned in their mutual dealings. The courtroom was made even more alien to women by the mode of communication favored there, mixing florid oratory with quick, slashmg wit. The successful lawyer flourished not by tenderness and kind words, but by clever tricks of language and reason, and by harsh, direct assaults on the credibility or character of those who stood in the way of his case. These were emphatically not the modes of social intercourse that women learned to master and enjoy. With its resemblance to a men’s de­ bating society or a verbal wrestling match, the courtroom alienated and intimidated women. Likewise, a male lawyer could be at ease there with women. Their relationship was highly structured, and it granted all the power to the attorney. The presence of female clients was no threat to the masculinity of a lawyer’s work.48 The real threat to the male culture of the public world came not from female customers or clients. Rather, it came from aspiring female pro­ fessionals who sought to open male enclaves like law and medicine to both sexes, and from women determined to end the masculinity of polit­ ical citizenship. . Dunng the last third of the nineteenth century, a small number of de­ term ined women tried to gain membership in the bar. Historian Michael Grossberg has summarized the reaction of male lawyers to the efforts of these women as “one of disbelief, coupled at times with ‘horror and dis-

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gust.’”49 When called on to justify their opposition to women lawyers, male attorneys drew naturally upon deeply held cultural beliefs about the female sex. Women, they claimed, lacked the nerve, the reason, and the physical stamina to practice law. Exposure to the rough words and rough treatm ent of the courtroom would strip away a woman's feminine refinement and render her unfit for her role at home. It was true, of course, that men were better socialized for this masculine environment, but the defenders of a segregated profession in the late nineteenth cen­ tury were not simply trying to spare some women a distasteful experi­ ence: they were trying to prevent all women from practicing law, espe­ cially those who were determined to practice. The late-century decisions about women’s entry to the bar were made in two arenas—the courts and legislative bodies. Women gained very different degrees of satisfaction in these these two domains. The courts rarely supported their admission to legal practice. In the most notorious such case, a Virginia appeals court refused attorney Belva Lockwood the right to practice m that state. A Virginia law granted the right to practice to “any person” licensed in another state or the District of Columbia, and Lockwood was licensed in the District. But the state court denied her right on the grounds that “any person” meant “any man.” In 1894, the United States Supreme Court upheld this ruling. No other court went so far as to deny women their personhood under the law, but sev­ eral others did refuse women entry to the bar in their own states.50 F requently rebuffed by the courts, women aspirants took their cause to the state legislatures and the Congress in the late 1800s. Although the legislative record is not uniform, it shows that representative bodies were far more receptive to womens arguments than the courts were. For instance, Belva Lockwood—before seeking the nght to practice in Virginia—had gained from Congress the right to serve as counsel in fed­ eral courts, a right which the federal courts themselves had denied her. Before the centuiy was over, most states had guaranteed women access to the bar.51 However, the legal guarantee did not change the fundamental nature of the bar as a male fraternity. Men managed to isolate women within the profession in a way that preserved male dominance, limited their contact with males as professional equals, and sustained the masculine culture of the bar. In larger firms, women were assigned to clerical and research tasks that would have been unusual for a male attorney. Within the broader profession, certain “female” specialties emerged, such as do­ mestic relations or legal aid—areas closely related to womens estab­ lished duties in the family and in charity work. Commercial fields such

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as property or contract law remained bastions of manhood.52 Just as the department store became physically a female enclave isolating mer­ chants and managers from business contact with women, “female” spe­ cialties within the law created ghettoes that separated most male attor­ neys from the professional presence of women. Even within these spe­ cialties, the female presence may not have been very large, for the pro­ portion of women in the bar as a whole had barely reached 1 percent by 1910.53 At the end of the century, the medical profession was also struggling to promote its maleness, but its struggle was different m nature from that of lawyers. As we have seen, medicine was perceived in less mascu­ line terms than the legal profession; this perception was affirmed be­ tween 1850 and 1880 by a small but significant influx of women into the profession. Dunng those years, the old apprenticeship system of training physicians was decaying, and most states abandoned legislation that gov­ erned medical licensing. Under these circumstances, doctors could not effectively defend the entrances to their profession, and those who were inclined to keep women out found it difficult to do so.54 Institutional factors were not the only ones that aided female entry into medicine at midcentury. The links between the purposes of medi­ cine and the virtues of domesticity were so clear that many male physi­ cians supported female attempts to enter the profession. Women and their allies argued on behalf of their natural female sympathy and their tender, God-given nursing abilities. They also contended that female doctors could protect the “natural” modesty of women patients better than male doctors could. These arguments combined with the fluid situ­ ation of the medical profession to give women a small foothold m medi­ cine. Still, male doctors spoke forcefully against the admission of women. They put forth the same lands of arguments that lawyers used m deny­ ing women professional status. A female, they insisted, lacked the ratio­ nality needed to practice medicine and the courage needed to function m the face of blood, gore, and naked male bodies. Women’s opponents also held that men—physicians and patients alike—were full of brutal instincts and that prolonged exposure to bestial male behavior would unfit a lady doctor for her fundamental domestic duties. Some men even argued that die female sex lacked the physical stamina needed for spe­ cial tasks like surgeiy.55 Like the nearly identical arguments against women lawyers, these notions arose as if by habit from the deep fund of middle-class beliefs about gender—the veiy same fund that supplied the arguments in favor of female doctors.

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The opposition to women practitioners did not stop the slow, steady tnckle of women into the medical profession; but there were changes in the world of medicine after 1880 that created new problems for female physicians. One was the emergence of scientific medicine as a system of practice and belief that vanquished many of the alternative models to which female doctors adhered. At the same time that medical thinking coalesced around one set of ideas, the structure of the profession crystal­ lized into a network of closely linked institutions—hospitals, dispen­ saries, medical schools, and professional societies.56 In this new world, opposition to women doctors could organize and take institutional root more easily than before. At medical schools, this opposition took effect in a largely incidental way, through chance remarks by professors, negative judgments by fel­ low students, and the intimidating effect of men’s great predominance in numbers and power. Many female practitioners remembered moments of public humiliation that symbolized the burden of being a female med­ ical student. Dr. Dorothy Reed Mendenhall recalled one such incident that took place during her education at Johns Hopkins. She and another woman decided to attend a lecture for students on diseases of the nose. They took their seats directly in front of the speaker and proved to be the only women there. The lecturer that evening had planned to make his presentation entertaining by establishing—and maintaining—a com­ parison between certain tissues m the nose and the corpus spongiosa of the penis. He sustained this scientific double entendre for an entire hour. Again and again, die audience roared with laughter and the women squirmed in humiliation. This performance was not prepared with the presence of women in mind, but Mendenhall was sure that “the added fillip of doing his dirt before two young women” increased the speakers “sly pleasure.” Given Vietonan standards of feminine delicacy, his performance was extraordinary, and Mendenhall cried “hysterically” all the way home. “Part of my trouble,” she wrote, “was that I couldn’t lace my class, many of whom I had seen thoroughly enjoying themselves at the lecture.”5' Whatever the intended point of the talk had been, the experience had an underlying gender message: This is a man’s world and we won’t change that for you—accept it or be gone. In fact, the new network of medical institutions (starting, for the as­ piring doctor, with medical school) made possible a major change m the culture of the profession. Through the linkage of institutions across space and along the professional lifespan, this network made possible the development, spread, perpetuation, and empowerment of a male culture within the medical world, based on constant contact between

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men in an environment they dominated. With the emergence of this masculine culture, the medical profession moved closer in its inner na­ ture to commerce and law, with their sociability and their modes of male interaction. The network of institutions and their culture threw new barriers in the way of female medical careers. When local and national medical so­ cieties sprang up in the 1870s, they became the chief mechanism for professional sociability and the discussion of new ideas and common problems. Thus, when they denied membership to graduates of women’s medical colleges, medical societies isolated many female physicians from the growing cohesion of the world of medicine. Even the women who graduated from coeducational medical schools were at a disadvantage as they sought to establish private practices, because their isolation m medical school left them limited in the kinds of connections needed to get patients and obtain useful consultations. In an environment where such ties were increasingly necessary to success, some male doctors re­ fused to consult with female colleagues and ostracized male colleagues who did.58 Given the foothold women had already attained in medicine and the likenesses between the profession’s purposes and femimne domestic ideals, the male culture of the new institutions did not drive women out of the medical world. In 1910, 6 percent of the physicians in the United States were women; but female doctors, like their counterparts m the law, were increasingly shunted into specialized enclaves. They tended to practice specialties such as gynecology and pediatrics, which focused on women or children. Female physicians also found a welcome in the emerging field of public health, where their work resembled the work in such women’s fields as teaching and charity.59 Not only were female enclaves developing among physicians, but other forms of gender segregation were appearing within the medical world. The emergence of the nursing profession divided the delivery of medical care along a line that separated gender, status, and function all at once. According to this new division, male doctors commanded the high ground of power and status by immersing themselves in specific fields of medical science and making the primary decisions about the care of each patient; the female nurse accepted a subordinate role, car­ rying out the doctor’s orders and providing most of the actual contact and care for each patient. Thus, as doctors’ most important professional contacts came increasingly with other physicians m the late nineteenth centuiy, they were able to limit their formerly extensive contact with pa­ tients. In some degree, doctors were able to do what merchants and

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store managers did at department stores: exchange the uncertainties of direct dealing with clients for the certainty of structured relations with female subordinates. This created an aura of distant authority for physi­ cians while giving their workplace relations with women a more secure structure. In the end, women were not excluded from the medical profession, and they were actually welcomed into the larger world of medical work; but in terms of institutional power, patient-care decisions, and occupa­ tional prestige, male physicians isolated and marginalized their female colleagues. In the late nineteenth century, men not only gathered the growing power of the medical profession into their own circle, they also created a more distinctively male professional culture than had ever ex­ isted before.

Nineteenth-century women attacked the sanctity of the male public sphere in one other fundamental way: a number of them demanded the right to vote. In defending their political realm, men used the same ar­ guments that were offered to counter womens entry into the profes­ sions. Women, it was said, were too physically and emotionally frail for the rough competition of politics. Inherently, they were illogical and emotional, and government demanded steady reason; they were idealists and dreamers, and political decisions required practical common sense. A group of antisuffragists, addressing the Illinois legislature in 1897, put it this way: “We believe that men are ordained to govern in all forceful and material matters, because they are men, physically and intellectually strong, virile, aggressive.”61 Was politics really a “forceful m atter”? Some opponents of suffrage believed that it was, and this belief provided them with another grounds for their opposition. Force, they reasoned, was the ultimate basis for government. Even m a democracy, the minority acquiesces in the will of the majority because it knows it cannot physically impose its will on the larger group. According to this line of thinking, womens suffrage con­ tained the seeds of disaster. If women were able to build a majority for a policy that most men bitterly opposed, what would keep the stronger sex from rebelling against the physically frail majority? What if a govern­ ment dominated by females tried to send its (male) army off to fight in a war that most men opposed? Antisuffragists feared the demise of lawful order. As one of their number, Francis Parkman, expressed it, “Law with no power to enforce it is futile and sometimes ridiculous.”62 Fears of social chaos reached their peak among the opponents of

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womens vote when the focus moved from sex difference to the separa­ tion of spheres. This familiar symbolic system was applied most often to the division of home from the marketplace, but it expressed Americas sense of its political system as well. To understand men’s fear of women’s suffrage, we need to understand how nineteenth-century Americans ap­ plied the doctrine of spheres to politics. Cast in political terms, the doctrine of the spheres was concerned with the issue of self-interest. It denied that a woman could have selfinterest, conceiving of her instead as the embodiment of self-sacrifice. In this moral universe, woman exerted her efforts for the best interests of her family, devoting herself to the development of her children and submitting to the will of her husband. Since she took her social identity from her husband’s position in the world and since he provided her with the necessities of life, she took his self-interest as her own. This political application of the doctrine of the spheres gave contin­ ued life to a traditional belief: the family, not the individual, was the basic unit of society. The family’s interest was embodied in the male who was its head, who provided it with income and with its social stand­ ing. Thus, it was natural that the man should represent the family m the public realm of politics. In politics as in economic life, the male sphere (“the world”) was an arena governed by the competition of unchecked self-interests.6,1This principle of self-interest was expressed m the Con­ stitution, which assumed die conflict of selfish motives in political life and made that conflict the fundamental source of its own strength and stability. By the 1820s, this political system based on competing self-interests had reached its fullest flower, m the development of a new male political culture. The emergence of universal white male suffrage stimulated this development. Now that gender was a prime criterion of political partici­ pation, a fraternal system of party competition emerged. This system channeled individual self-interest into a male political culture of partisan combat.64 Party membership was the key to this culture. Less a m atter of choice than of male social identity, party affiliation passed from father to son. Campaigns were mass entertainments which not only celebrated great causes of the past and present but also exalted the shared manhood of its participants. As fellow members of local party organizations, men praised the manliness of their partisan heroes and denounced as effemi­ nate die nonpartisan reformers who opposed die party system. Together, loyalists joined m such masculine campaign activities as military-style pa­ rades, torchlight rallies, electoral wagenng, barbecues, and logpole rais-

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ings. All of these activities were drenched in the free flow of liquor, which the nineteenth century associated with men. Masculine sites such as saloons and barbershops served as polling places. Politics was clearly a masculine world, both in its population and in its favored symbols and rituals.65 Since this style of politics was based on fervent partisanship and heated conflict, there was always a possibility that the whole noisy enter­ prise would fly apart in an explosion of animosity. More than anything else, the exclusion of women sustained the unity of this contentious cul­ tural world. As historian Paula Baker has noted, women provided men with a “negative referent.” As much as political partisans clashed over other issues, they shared their manhood in common. To be a political actor, one was necessarily a man. Then, too, in a broader sense, it was womens virtue that supported male political culture m this form. As­ sured that women would infuse society with their virtuous regard for the good of all, men felt free to set their selfish motives loose m political combat. Just as they expected women to curb male passions m personal life, men believed that women would balance male self-interest m soci­ ety at large with their female regard for the interests of others.66 In a sense, nineteenth-century women did do this. They developed an alternative political culture that earned the moral values of the home ag­ gressively into the world. Women’s networks, formed in the church, grew into local reform organizations as women attacked public evil— failure to observe the Sabbath; prostitution; intemperance; slavery. By the last third of the century, these local associations of women had knit themselves into national organizations, of which the most powerful was the Women’s Chnstian Temperance Union.67 Male reaction to these movements was mixed. Some men, as we shall see, reacted with hostility. Others joined the movements and still others accepted the growth of this kind of female politics, since they believed in the moral stewardship of women. When women pressed for female suffrage, however, men reacted with vehemence. Grover Cleveland summarized men’s feelings when he wrote that granting suffrage to women would destroy “a natural equilib­ rium so nicely adjusted to the attributes and limitations of both [men and women] that it cannot be disturbed without social confusion and peril.”68 The right to vote would allow women—delicate and pure—to enter the sordid, selfish, and well-liquored fraternity of politics. This would disrupt the cohesion of that fractious culture by ending its male unity, and set selfish rivalry loose on the world.68 Worse yet from the traditional viewpoint, women’s suffrage would

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bring chaos to the domestic sphere as well. In Francis Parkman’s words, “To give the suffrage to women would be to reject the principle that has thus far formed the basis of civilized government”: that “the head of the fam ily. . . [is] the political representative of the rest.” If a woman voted, it meant that her husband no longer represented the interest of the household. It meant instead that a woman represented her own interest. To men (and some women as well), this prospect had frightening impli­ cations. First, it affirmed that women had self-interest and should pur­ sue it. Second, if women pursued self-interest, there would be no one left within the nineteenth-century moral scheme to preserve and extend the fundamental virtue of unselfishness. Moral chaos threatened.70 The antisuffragists also argued that if women shared the vote with men, their action would undercut men’s authority as head of the house­ hold. Suffrage would place a woman on an equal footing with her hus­ band, and their self-interests would weigh against each other. The po­ tential for the destruction of marriage seemed grave. Antisuffragists also worried about who would mind the children if women became politi­ cally active. One New York man, asserting that the purpose of women’s rights petitions was “to overthrow the most sacred of our institutions,” asked: “Are we to put the stamp of truth on the libel here set forth, that men and women, in the matrimonial relation are to be equal?”71 To men, women’s suffrage meant the destruction of marriage, the family, and “the basis of civilized government.” It dissolved the separation of spheres, blurred the distinction between the sexes, and abandoned the existing means for teaching virtue and controlling vice. It is no wonder, then, that men opposed women’s suffrage so fiercely. By the end of the century, after more than fifty years of agitation, women had gained full voting rights in only four states. As men created enclaves within the professional world for women doctors and lawyers and within the commercial world for women consumers, they also al­ lowed women a realm of political participation that was consistent with the feminine role of moral stewardship. While these female reform en­ claves recognized the formal presence of women in the public realm, they kept women isolated from the male cultures that were the true seats of power. As far as suffrage was concerned, nineteenth-century men staunchly refused women entry into their world of electoral poli­ tics, where power itself might have to be shared. Nevertheless, dunng the last third of the nineteenth century, a grow­ ing num ber of middle-class people were refusing to abide by the pre­ scriptions of separate spheres. Female temperance crusaders, suffrag­ ists, and club women began to pour into the public sphere in ever-

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growing numbers. Aspiring female professionals, beginning with doctors at midcentury and followed by lawyers and academics in later years, sought acceptance m men’s realm. Meanwhile, a less conspicuous troop of middle-class men headed in the other direction. Male neurasthenics returned home during the day, looking for a place to rest and relax away from their proper sphere. Some men even sought a quiet moment with their children from time to time. The old cultural map of the spheres still provided the official version of how the terrain should look, but its prescriptive power was weakening. The proliferation of female enclaves within mens public space offered proof of this looser grip. At the same time, a different sort of gender change was underway. Men were revising the codes that governed their behavior and their sense of who they should be. In some respects, they were elaborating old ideas, but in other respects, they were drawing on once-forbidden sources for new ideals. Along with the changing cartography of the spheres, this reimagining of manliness would create cultural stress and personal strain for middle-class men as the end of the century ap­ proached.

Chapter 10

P A S S IO N A T E MANHOOD A Changing Standard of Masculinity

M

I I ANY of the cultural forms which give shape to manhood in the twentieth century emerged in the late nineteenth. In that era, bourgeois manhood embraced new virtues and obsessions. The male body moved to the center of men’s gender concerns; manly passions were revalued m a favorable light; men began to look at the “primitive” sources of man­ hood with new regard; the martial virtues attracted admiration; and competitive impulses were transformed into male virtues. These cultural shifts did not happen overnight. Some of them began as early as the 1850s, and none were complete by the turn of the twentieth century, but the moment of greatest change came in the 1880s and 1890s. Our lives a centuiy later are still bound by this reshaping of manhood.

The Embodiment of Manhood In the three-quarters of a centuiy after the American Revolution, bour­ geois Northerners showed the deepest concern for manhood in its moral, social, and political meanings, while placing a lesser emphasis on the male body. Then, m the second half of the nineteenth century, this relative emphasis began to change. Daniel Eddy’s popular advice book, The Young M ans Friend, said little about physical strength or health when it was first published in 1855; Eddy’s true concern was a young man’s strength of character. The second edition of his book, appearing

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ten years later, had a wholly different focus. Eddy had come to see phys­ ical strength as the foundation of male character: “What mud sills are to a building, muscular development is to manhood/' Men were conscious of the changing emphasis. As early as 1858, Thomas Wentworth Higginson lamented the popular assumption “that a race of shopkeepers, bro­ kers, and lawyers could live without bodies.” In the 1890s, Edward Everett Hale denounced “the absolute indifference” of Americans “in the first half of this century to matters of physical health.”1 By the time Hale was writing those words, however, middle-class men were paying assiduous attention to the male body. A vogue of physical culture, beginning in the 1850s, became a mania during the century’s final third. Gymnastics, cycling, and skating all enjoyed waves of popu­ larity, but it was body-building especially that absorbed mens energy and attention.2 Hemy Dwight Sedgwick recalled how, as a fourteenyear-old, he admired the muscles of a youth who spent his spare time working with weights: “There he stood, putting up dumb-bells to in­ crease his biceps, and his biceps justified his assiduous care. His muscle was magnificent; when he doubled up his elbow, it stood out like a great ostrich egg, hard and round, unnvalled in school.”3 As Sedgwick’s state­ ment shows, this fascination with body-building found its reflection in a concern for muscular body image. A study of magazine articles has re­ vealed that, by the end of the century, heroes were most often described in physical terms, with an emphasis on their impressive size and strength.4 As much as they were concerned with the bodies of other men, late nineteenth-century males were most concerned with their own. Men of all ages noted their weight with care and precision, while young males in their teens and twenties recorded changes of body dimension in rapt de­ tail. As a graduate student in 1884, psychologist James Cattell placed himself on a program of exercise. He announced the results precisely and with pride: “My breast increased in circumference 4M inches in three months, and the rest of my body in proportion. I had not supposed this to be possible. I am not fatter—my stomach measures only 3VA inches, whereas my hipps [sic] are 38M.” In letters and dianes, young men like Cattell watched for changes in body size with the obsessive at­ tention of a Puritan tracing the progress of his soul toward grace.5 Indeed, men of the late nineteenth century went a step beyond Daniel Eddy’s assertion that a strong body was the foundation for a strong character; they treated physical strength and strength of charac­ ter as the same thing. One commentator complained of the boy whose “flabby muscles are no less flabby than his character.” Another man

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equated physical development with moral development: ‘T he only way to become an athlete is by continued exercise, one never did it yet by staying away from the Gym because one couldn’t do the Giant swing, and I suppose moral strength grows in much the same way.” Hiram Bingham, an early twentieth-century politician and explorer, carried the equation one step further. In arguing for the necessity of military might, Bingham drew an analogy between the development of the individual and that of the nation. A military buildup would strengthen the country’s moral force, just as “the development of a man’s body gives him strength of mmd and self-control.”6 This embodiment of mind, spirit, and character reached a peak of ab­ surdity at the turn of the century in the doctnne of Muscular Christian­ ity. Using metaphors of fitness and body-building, Christian thinkers imagined a strong, forceful Jesus with a religion to match. In 1896, Cen­ tury Magazine called for a “vigorous, robust, muscular Christianity . . . devoid of all the etcetera of creed,” a Christianity “which shows the character and manliness of Christ.”7 This hardy Jesus with rippling mus­ cles was “no pnnce of peace-at-any-price.” He was an enforcer who “turned again and again on the snarling pack of His pious enemies and made them slink away.”8 The key to Muscular Christianity was not the idea of the spirit made flesh, but of the flesh made spirit. In proclaiming that the condition of character follows from the condition of the body, the advocates of Muscular Christianity were creatures of their time. If physical strength was a source of character in a man, what were the specific virtues that it bred? One of them is evident in the call for a “vig­ orous, robust, muscular Christianity . devoid of all the etcetera of creed.” This statement expresses a growing sense of opposition between action and thought. Increasingly, middle-class men saw action—even unthinking action—as manly and viewed “the etcetera of creed” as a sign of effeminacy. Throughout the century, of course, middle-class men of the North had devoted themselves to practical accomplishment. Yankee businessmen had for years harbored a suspicion of educated men who “thought too much.” But what was once a harbored suspicion became gleeful public scorn late m the century—and no one was more scornful than educated men themselves. As Charles Francis Adams said in 1883: “I think we’ve had all we want o f‘elegant scholars’ and ‘gentlemen of re­ fined classical taste,’ and now I want to see more University men trained up to take a hand m the rather rough game of American nineteenthcentury life.”9 Reflectiveness appeared explicitly as a gender issue in a 1904 Harpers Bazaar article by a woman writer, Marion Foster Washburne.

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She contrasted paralyzing female doubt with single-minded male cer­ tainty m these reflections on the fears of a new mother: No woman can fail to wish that the husband, instead of falling .. into the wife’s mood, [would insist] upon throwing open the blinds, kissing the baby too hard for comfort, doing likewise to the mother, and going off in a gale of hearty happiness that would rock her safely into port. The elemental simplicity of the average masculine mind is exactly what we women need. A new concept of manly reason was emerging here. In this view, male rationality was not a capacity for deep, logical reflection but rather an absence of complex emotions—an absence which freed men to act boldly and decisively.10 Men as well as women expressed admiration for the strong-minded, forceful man. Charles Van Hise described the presence of an army gen­ eral m such terms: In action his blue-gray eyes are full of fire; indeed the first impression was of his eyes, and then with the firmly set jaw may be understood somewhat his force. Of course he is a man of power, but not only so, he produces this impression in a marked degree. Men were also alert to a lack of vigor or command in another man’s character. The naturalist John Burroughs, for instance, wrote of his aging father that his “force and authority as a man were feeble.”11 Where strength and force were so highly valued, it was only natural that men admired fighting virtues and often endorsed violence. When Sergeant Kendall heard from his parents in 1887 that his brother had a fight with some boys in his class, he told them: “I should like to have seen Franklin lick the boys. Bully for him! Do it again every time—‘sic’ him. I feel like doing something of the kind to a fellow in our class.” That his parents bothered to mention the fight and that their twenty-year-old son felt free to react with such ferocity indicates that the Kendall par­ ents approved of such tussles.12 Indeed, bourgeois Northerners did more than endorse interpersonal violence: they now believed that fighting helped to build youthful char­ acter. The students at Phillips Exeter Academy were urged to “plunge into it, and be bare fists and wits your only weapons.”13 O f course, scraps between boys were not new in the late nineteenth century. What was new was the change in the meaning of these fights to adults. Early in the 1800s, men and women had seen youthful brawls as a badge of evil and a

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sign that manly self-control was not yet developed. The same sort of fight was seen late m the centuiy as an emblem of developing character, a means to manliness. By the end of the 1800s, men were prone to view struggle and strife as ends in themselves. On many occasions, Theodore Roosevelt preached “the doctrine of the strenuous life.” In his words, “Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. No life is worth leading if it is always an easy life.”14 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., shared Roosevelt’s belief that struggle was a virtue in itself. The great justice, m fact, made this belief into a high philosophical principle and considered it explicitly a m atter of gen­ der. Speaking to the Tavern Club of Boston in 1896, Holmes analyzed the act of a man who went over Niagara Falls in his own specially con­ structed boat and was killed: Precisely because it was not useful it was a perfect expression of the male contribution to our common stock of morality. Woman, who is the mother, contributes living for another—the ideal of unselfishness. Man who is the breadwinner and die fighter, contributes what boys used to call doing a stump. To nineteenth-century boys, “doing a stump” meant doing a dangerous deed for its own sake. It could also mean competition in performing use­ less but daring acts. Thus, when Holmes asked, “Why do we send expe­ ditions to the North Pole?” he answered his own question: “It is nothing but nations doing stumps to one another.” The justice then took this issue of pure struggle to a higher level. He said in praise of men’s useless acts: “An ideal is a pnnciple of conduct carried to its abstract absolute and therefore useless expression, and when you find such an expression in life it has the final charm.” Holmes added with passion, ‘This uselessness is the highest kind of use. It is kin­ dling and feeding the ideal spark without which life is not worth living.” Holmes was equating manliness with struggle for its own sake and giving it the highest moral value.15 The notion of manhood as high strife was not the sole possession of men. The grand-niece of William Dean Howells wrote to her famous relative to bemoan the lack of virility m his novels. By “virility,” she meant: “véiy strong. . . ; and mistrustful; and relentless; and makes you feel as if somebody had taken you by the throat; and shakes you up, aw­ fully, and seems to throw you into the air, and trample you underfoot.”16 Admittedly, her definition of virility was extreme; but it shared with

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other views a sense of struggle and strife, of violence and force. In the eyes of educated men and women, these qualities were becoming syn­ onymous with manhood at the end of the nineteenth century. As this no­ tion of manliness emerged, there was a growing tendency to look at men as creatures of impulse and passion, even as animals or savages.

Primitive Masculinity Throughout the nineteenth century, middle-class culture had identified "passion” as a fundamental quality of the male sex. Lust, greed, selfish­ ness, ambition, and physical assertiveness were all seen as distinctively male traits. What changed in the century’s final decades was the valua­ tion of these passions. Once they had been viewed as dangerous sources of evil that threatened both soul and society. Now, as the century drew to a close, a man’s “animal instincts” were seen in a positive light. Men compared themselves readily to "primitive” peoples. John William DeForest noted that Civil War soldiers passed their "time like Comanches and New Zealanders,” and—as he crawled across a grassy knoll that was raked by Confederate fire—DeForest’s thoughts ranged "from an expectation of a ball through the spine to a recollection of Cooper’s most celebrated Indians.” Some women thought of men in similar terms. A turn-of-the-centuiy magazine writer urged her female readership to provide a den for the man of the house. "Make it a place,” she urged, "where he can lie and growl over his bones when he feels like i t . . . One lucky man of my acquaintance has such a den, which is to him as a cave to a primitive man.”17 When late-century men were not being likened to “primitives,” they were urging one another to act like them. Thomas Wentworth Higginson encouraged a Boston audience to tramp through the woods and hills south of town on the trail of game, “and camp where you find yourself at evening, and you are as essentially an Indian on the Blue Hills as among the Rocky Mountains.” As if in response to his suggestion, more and more affluent men ranged further and further into forest, jungle, and praine as hunters in the last decades of the century. One such man, ac­ cording to a friend, “was never so truly himself as when looking into the bright face of danger.”18 When men of the era could not imitate “primitive” men directly, they urged one another to learn from them. The lessons to be learned varied a great deal. Health reformer John Harvey Kellogg hoped that men of his kind would be chaste like Indians and other “primitives.” Critics of

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“American nervousness” encouraged victims of overwork to learn relax­ ation from “Oriental people, the inhabitants of the tropics, and the col­ ored peoples generally.” In the final quarter of the century, it became common for affluent young men to strengthen themselves by spending time m the “Wild West.” O f Theodore Roosevelt’s experience m the Dakota Territory, Daniel Carter Beard wrote: “By wearing the buckskin clothes, by mixing with ranchers, hunters, and savages, .. [Roosevelt] consciously imbibed the energy, frankness, and fellowship of the wilder­ ness.” Beard hoped to teach the same lessons to city boys when he joined the Boy Scout movement.19 Men identified themselves with primitives m the rituals and plays of the clubs and lodges that were so popular late m the century. Athletic or­ ganizations and elite men’s clubs wrote and performed their own theater pieces. Usually humorous and playful, one of the insistent themes of these shows was the transformation of the players into the “lesser” peo­ ple whom they excluded from membership—women and people of color. Time after time, these performances turned affluent white men into black-face minstrels, tribesmen of “Darkest Africa,” and “cannibal choruses.”20 A similar phenomenon developed in the ubiquitous fraternal lodges of the late nineteenth century. The new rituals, which lay at the heart of fraternal activity and appeal, drew proudly and self-consciously on the customs of “savage” peoples. The noted jurist Roscoe Pound said that Masonic rites had their origins in the “development of societies out of the primitive men’s house.” Men who saw themselves as the pinnacle of civilization were zealous to play the parts of those they considered primi­ tive.21 O f course, this fascinated kinship with other peoples had also been visible earlier m the century. The popularity of Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels, Davy Crockett’s yams, Melville’s South Sea tales, and a slew of books about American Indians had expressed the avid curiosity of the white antebellum middle class with those who lived beyond their selfdrawn lines of civilization.22 Avid curiosity was one thing, however, and identification was quite another. Francis Parkman’s classmates at Har­ vard m the early 1840s laughed at his obsession with the people who in­ habited America’s forests and plains and made fun of him for having “In­ juns on the brain.” In the decades after the Civil War, such a fascination with “primitives” was considered normal, even m a grown man.23 In their desire to penetrate the boundaries of civilization, postbellum men sometimes blurred the distinction between the “savages” and ani-

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mais. The tum-of-the-century writer Hamlin Garland did just that m the following poem, which he posted over the fireplace of a fnend: Do you fea r the force o f the wind. The slash o f the rain? Go face them and fight them, Be savage again. Go hungry and cold like the wolf. Go wade like the crane. The palms o f your hands will thicken. The skin o f your forehead tan— You’ll he ragged and swarthy and weary But—you’ll walk like a man.24 Savages and animals fade together in this poem into one rough-hewn “other.” The lack of distinction did not bother the middle-class men of Garland s era. They were drawn to both groups for the same qualities. The identification of men with animals, unlike their identification with primitives, had no precedent in the cultural tradition of middleclass Northerners. John Burroughs reflected on this change as he de­ scribed his feelings about Darwinism in 1883: It is a new sensation to come to see man as an animal—the master animal of the world, the outcome and crown of all the rest. We have so long been taught to regard ourselves as something apart and exceptional, dif­ fering not merely in degree, but in kind, from the rest of creation, in no sense a part of Nature, something whose origin and destiny are peculiar, and not those of the commonality of the animal kingdom. The animal nature of the human race was no longer an occasional poetic fancy but a scientific certainty.25 A flood of animal metaphors poured forth in the post-Darwin era. Man was now “a brave animal,” and battle made “the wolf rise in [his] heart.” Jack Londons 1903 novel The Call o f the Wild drew much of its immense popularity from its message that beneath the veneer of all human training lurks a wild animal. The mere fact that an animal could be the hero of a book so eagerly read by men was revealing in itself.26 Men spoke of their animal nature m phrases like “animal instincts” and “animal energy.” They believed that this nature was their male birthright and that it demanded expression. Thomas Wentworth Higgin-

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son summarized this position: “ The animal energy cannot and ought not to be suppressed; if debarred from its natural channel, it will force for it­ self unnatural ones“ Such “unnatural” channels included “war, gam­ bling, licentiousness, highway-robbery, and office-seeking.” Left to its own course, animal energy “not only does not tend to sensuality m the objectionable sense, but it helps to avert it.”27 It is significant that, when Higginson named the results of suppressed animal energy, he listed a series of antisocial activities connected almost exclusively with men. For the concept of man’s “animal nature” was not without its gender politics. Darwin s theories—which supplied the domi­ nant metaphor m this area for late nineteenth-century thinking—pro­ vided an animal inheritance to men and women alike. Yet, while men ap­ plied the idea of a bestial nature liberally tö themselves, they applied it to women only in highly selective fashion. Men preferred to think of women as completely civilized creatures, free of passion and full of moral sensitivities. When they did think of the female as an animal, they were usually considering her as the child-bearing sex—and then men tended to use her beasdy nature against her. For example, when seg­ ments of the Victorian medical profession grew alarmed that too many women were seeking education and an active role in the world beyond the home, doctors announced that the inherent qualities of the female reproductive system dictated that women should stay home and have ba­ bies. Generally, however, men were reluctant to grant an animal inheri­ tance to women, even though they were eager to claim one for them­ selves.28 For their part, women seemed less excited about applying “animal” labels to humans. Most of them shared in the belief that the female sex was more civilized, which may explain why they lacked men’s fascination with finding bestial traces in human behavior. But there was one subject that inspired them to attribute animal nature to people, and that was sexuality. The tum -of-the-centuiy movement for social purity was rooted in the belief common to most women "that man is bestial” when it comes to his sex drives. One seventeen-year-old girl decided that “man, from the mightiest king to the humblest laborer is impure throughout— more animal than true man.” An older woman believed that even “the slightest departure” from sexual reticence by a woman would turn men “into ‘wild beasts.’” Even if experience taught a woman that a man could control his desires, her surprise affirmed the prevailing view of man’s an­ imal nature. One such woman testified that her mother had given her “an abnormal idea of men by her own sex attitude-----I thought most men must be beasts.”29

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Men generally agreed with women that they were driven by “animal instincts” m sexual matters.30 The difference between men and women on this topic lay not in any dispute about whether the male was a “brute” or not, but in the meanings men and women attributed to man’s sexually animal nature. Within the framework of middle-class culture, a mans carnal instincts were nothing but trouble to a woman. For a late nineteenth-century man, though, his “animal” impulses toward women seemed at worst a mixed blessing. They disturbed his relations with the opposite sex, and they could also lead to inner confusion about sexuality. But this “brutish” side of his nature also expressed his manliness. As one woman summarized the common belief, the sexual “passions of man­ hood ally [a man] to the forces of the universe and [so] justify them ­ selves.” In this view a mans animal drives gave him a “natural” power and not only “justified themselves” but verified his manhood.31 Whatever the gender politics of men’s animal nature, it is clear that men in the last third of the nineteenth century were changing the moral value that they set on their “natural” passions. Talk of man’s “bestiality” was largely a figurative language to discuss the passions that were as­ cribed to him. If men were showing a newfound pride in the animal within them, it was really a way to express positive feelings about male impulse. An ardent spokesman for the value of male passion was Theodore Roosevelt. He extolled “the great primal needs and primal passions that are common to all of us” and quoted British minister Sydney Smith as saying: “The history of the world shows that men are not to be counted by their numbers, but by the fire and vigor of their passions.” Roosevelt repeated Smiths words on the uses of passion m men’s lives: There are seasons in human affairs when qualities, fit enough to conduct the common business of life, are feeble and useless. When men must trust to emotion for that safety which reason at such times can never give. .. God calls all the passions out in their keenness and vigor for the present safety of manland . . . —all the secret strength, all the invisible array of the feelings—all that nature has reserved for the great scenes of the world when the usual hopes and aids of man are gone, nothing re­ mains under God but those passions which have often proved the best ministers of His purpose and the surest protectors of his world. Wrapping passion in this divine endorsement. Smith (and Roosevelt) in­ cluded anger, revenge, and “a readiness to suffer” among the impulses they approved for manly use.32 Other men were willing to give an even freer rein to passion. In 1885,

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psychologist James Cattell explained his neglect of his own health by saying, “We have put reason in the place of instinct, and are going to no good end.” A young man named Walter Fisher had even stronger feel­ ings. He believed that obeying impulse was “Life’s best slogan,” that “the basis of ethics is instinct.”33 Fisher’s beliefs moved manhood far from the eighteenth-century conception that the passions were dark and destruc­ tive forces in a man, forces that had to be controlled by the divine gift of male reason. In the late nineteenth centuiy, men took a second look at their “animal nature” and found it just as useful—and just as necessary to their manhood—as reason. O f course, men like Fisher and Cattell did not believe that passion should simply rule their behavior; civilization still had its place. But they worried that modem males—particularly themselves and their sons— had become so civilized that their relationship with their own primal needs was now dangerously disrupted. Such cultural spokesmen as these felt a burning need to preach the existence of the masculine primitive, to remind men of the professional and business classes that they indeed had a deep reservoir of savage drives and instincts—passions which men needed in order to be men, to struggle, survive, and dominate. They feared that civilization had so fully repressed their passions that their very manhood—their independence, their courage, their drive for mas­ tery—was being suffocated. Thus, they clamored and boasted about their “animal instincts” and their primitive needs in hope of establishing a better balance between civilization and the inner savage. In so doing, they gave passion a new and honored place in the bourgeois definition of manhood.

Manliness and the Military Ideal As men of the late nm eteenth century sought to connect themselves to primitive impulse and to define their lives in terms of passionate strug­ gle, they often turned to martial ideals and images as a way to focus their vision of a manly life. The new male language of struggle expressed the idea—rare in female usage—that existence was battle. The image sur­ faced in many realms of life during the later years of the centuiy. Frater­ nal ritual was rife with descriptions of the warfare of existence. A clergy­ man prominent in the Knights of Pythias resorted to this figure of speech in explaining why Pythians wore military outfits: “Human life is not a playground but a battlefield, m which individuals may make their lives sublime.” “From the cradle to the grave,” he added, “our life is a

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scene of unending conflict.” A speaker at the 1898 convention of the evangelical Student Volunteer Movement declared that: we may liken this [convention] to a council of war, m which we take ac­ count of the field to tie won, the opposing forces to be met, the agencies we are to employ, the enlistment that is needed, the equipment we must have, and the spiritual authority which must be recognized. And when the New York Herald eulogized Cornelius Vanderbilt m 1877, it did so by adopting the figure of life as a battle: “He had no advantages in his battle, no political, social, educational aid. It was one honest, sturdy, fearless man against the world, and in the end the man won.”34 The Civil War was unquestionably a key force in shaping this male perception of life as warfare, but the wars cultural influence worked slowly. In the years after 1865, many people recoiled in horror from fresh memories of combat. By the 1880s, though, the memories dimmed, and the benefits of war stood out in bolder relief. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., told Harvard students m 1895, “War, when you are at it, is horrible and dull. It is only when time has passed that you see that its message was divine.” Two years earlier, another Civil War vet­ eran, Francis Amasa Walker, had observed to another Harvard audience that the Civil War had transformed the way the whole nation viewed life. It had produced, he said, “a vast change in popular sentiment and ideals.”35 What was the “divine message” of the war that brought such “a vast change in popular sentiment”? The wars interpreters varied widely in their understanding, but they agreed on one point: the courage and selfsacrifice demanded by that great struggle contrasted sharply with the soft, pampered life of the business and professional classes after the war. Most men believed with William James that some means must be found to revive the “martial virtues”—“intrepidity, contempt of softness, sur­ render of private interest, obedience to command”—amid the easy peace enjoyed by the more prosperous classes. Theodore Roosevelt was perhaps the leading advocate of “the fighting virtues” in his generation. He preached: We need the iron qualities that must go with true manhood. We need the positive virtues of resolution, of courage, of indomitable will, of power to do without shrinking the rough work that must always be done, and to persevere through the long days of slow progress or seeming fail­ ure which always come before any final triumph, no matter how brilliant.36

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The “divine message” of the war, then, was the virtues it taught: courage, strength, endurance, duty, principled sacrifice. And the men who praised the fighting virtues equated them with manhood. Older traits of manliness such as independence and reason were not supplanted but they were cast in shadow by more physical, “primitive” qualities. If these martial qualities were part of the divine message of war, the question for men in the closing years of the century was how to nurture those values in a time of comfortable peace and “ignoble ease.” Men of­ fered widely varied answers. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., preached a philosophy of strenuous stoicism, “a reverence for men of action.” Since he exalted the inherent virtue of activity and struggle, he even praised the world of business: "It hardens the fibre and . . . is more likely [than contemplation] to make more of a man of one who turns it to success.”37 William James sought different means to bring the “tonic air of battle­ fields” into the stale peacetime environment. He expressed his concern about the pallid selfishness of “gilded youths” in 1910 in his great essay “The Moral Equivalent of War.” With the model of the Civil War clearly m mind, James proposed that the nation’s youth be conscnpted into “an army against nature.” This corps of youth would work at physical labor, from coal mining to road building, with this ultimate purpose: “To get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas.” James’s peaceful army would perform useful service, but the real benefit of their work would be the creation of the moral energy and vital purpose that James’s gener­ ation felt the Civil War had provided for them.38 While men like James and Holmes sought peaceful activities that would build manly character as well as war did, there were many others who saw no need for a substitute. This group believed that men could best derive the benefits of war simply by having one. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, veterans spoke to each other of the nobility of their sacrifice and of the fraternity of courage which they had been fortunate to share. They aired these feelings at conventions, encampments, and battlefield reunions that grew steadily in frequency and size. At the same time, veterans became the centerpiece at the newly popular Memorial Day celebrations, where they and their dead brethren were held up as exemplars of utmost virtue.30 The lesson could hardly be lost on the male youth who camé of age in these years. Veterans compared the younger generation’s easy life with the heroic sacrifice and hardship of the war generation. Could the sons be equal to the fathers? Would they have a like opportunity to test their

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manly worth m the fires of war? These questions developed a growing urgency during the 1890s. In 1894, a writer in the North American Re­ view taunted men for going “flabby” with “idleness and luxury” and sug­ gested that “a great war” might help them “to pull themselves together.” Theodore Roosevelt agreed. “This country needs a war,” he wrote in 1895. “We feel . that the men who have dared greatly in war, or the work which is alan to war, are those who deserve best of the country.” Younger men like Roosevelt wanted that chance to dare greatly. As Carl Sandburg, who was twenty at the time, observed, “Over all of us m 1898 was the shadow of the Civil War and the men who fought it to the end.” In that year, the sons of the Civil War generation finally got their chance. The “splendid little war” with Spain provided ample chances for glory and an overwhelming victory for the nation.40 After its men had gotten their special chance to prove their manly, fighting virtues, however, the nation discovered that the war had left an unpleasant residue. When the United States defeated Spain, it con­ quered Spanish colonial territories. Now the nation had to decide what its relationship to those conquered areas should be, in particular, whether the United States should suppress a revolt in the Philippines, or withdraw and leave the Filipinos with the independence they sought. The argument over these questions uncovered a generational cleav­ age.41 The cleavage centered on issues of imperialism, but looked at more closely, it can also be seen as a clash over the military ideals of manhood. The opposition to an imperial policy was led by men of the older gen­ eration who remembered the Civil War clearly; the younger men, raised on the splendor and necessity of the fighting virtues, favored an assertive global role for the nation. This debate on imperialism provided the con­ text for Theodore Roosevelt s famous “Strenuous Life” speech of 1899, in which Roosevelt treated the martial ideals for the individual man and for the nation as barely distinguishable from one another: If we stand idly by,. . . if we shrink from the hard contest where men must win at the hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the stronger and bolder peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully___Let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.42

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Just as Roosevelt believed that the individual man could only prove his manhood through strenuous endeavor, so he believed that nations could only prove their greatness by facing strife. Beneath the circular logic of personal manhood and national great­ ness lurks another of Roosevelt’s pet concerns: dominance. The end re­ sult of all the strife, the manliness, and the national greatness would be “the domination of the world.” To Roosevelt, this was a worthy goal—in­ deed, it was the ultimate goal. One can see dominance as the implied project of the whole martial ideal of manliness. After all, war is an at­ tem pt to impose by force that which cannot be arranged by peaceful means. If, as so many middle-class men believed at the time, life is a bat­ tle, then the purpose of life must be that form of dominance we call vic­ tory. The martial ideal was a cult of manly conquest. But the cult had its opponènts. In the “Strenuous Life” address, Roo­ sevelts chief enemies were not “primitive” peoples or competitor na­ tions but anti-imperialists m his own country. Roosevelt scorned them as men who had “lost the great fighting, masterful virtues.” W hether this was a fair criticism or not, one thing was clear about Roosevelt s oppo­ nents: they tended to be of an older generation. Their lives were lived by an older set of values and an older standard of manhood. As good, bour­ geois republicans, they were not believers in a warrior ethic. They ab­ horred standing armies as threats to liberty, and their military etluc was a belief in a citizen militia, ever ready to defend freedom. Their deepest concern was independence—to determine their own fate, achieve their own status, choose their own governors, exercise their own economic options. The warrior ethic that appeared at the end of the century dis­ turbed them deeply. Their concerns were effectively expressed by Ernest Howard Crosby m his 1901 article on “The Military Idea of Manliness.” Crosby observed that the United States, because it had always been “a nation of mere tradesmen and farmers,” had “never assimilated the ideals of honor, manliness, and glory which distinguish the military peoples.” This mili­ tary ideal was, said Crosby, a “change in the idea of manliness to which we must adjust ourselves.” He found the new idea troubling on many counts. It encouraged “deception” and “pillage,” and its reliance on rank order encouraged the powerful to prey on the weak. Crosby was also troubled by the petty vanities which he saw in military life. He made this point as scornfully as he could by likening military men to women: The new idea of manliness involves a high degree of sensitiveness.. . No other profession except that of actresses, can compete with the army and

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navy in feline am enities. W e used to think such behavior eifem inate. It is a mistake. Such behavior is manly.

This military vanity, said Crosby, demanded that “the humble citizen [bow] prostrate.”43 This last image disturbed Crosby the most. Ever since the American Revolution, the refusal to honor position for its own sake had been a mark of manliness. A man who bowed down to rank was expressing de­ pendence, and, in doing so, he threatened his own freedom and that of the nation. Crosby described his concern about submission in typically ironic tones: There is another false conception which we must get rid o f before we can appreciate the new m anliness, and that is the ancient b elief m freedom and independence which prevailed before the recent repeal o f the D ec­ laration. Absolute obedience, readiness to obey orders, to do anything, these are necessary military qualities.44

Crosby’s comment on the "repeal of the Declaration” referred to the re­ cent Senate ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which made the Philip­ pines, Puerto Rico, and Guam possessions of the United States instead of giving them independence. This reference shows how much his con­ cerns about military manliness were based on events in the political arena, and it also suggests the degree to which the new manliness threat­ ened the republican principles that had helped form the foundation of the older conception of manhood. Crosby’s greatest concern was not imperialism abroad but deference and blind obedience at home. There was ample reason for a man of older republican values to be concerned in Crosby’s day. Talk of duty and subordination were everywhere. The most famous hymn to defer­ ence was Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s, 1895 speech, “The Soldier’s Faith.” Holmes said, in the most quoted lines of the speech: the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, m a cause which he little under­ stands, m a plan o f campaign o f which he has no notion, under tactics o f which he does not see the use.43

No statement could have strayed further from republican belief than this paean to blind obedience, yet it was simply a resonant echo of a be­ lief that was widely and loudly proclaimed at the end of the century. This noble submission took two main forms: the surrender of per-

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sonal aims for those of the group, and deference to a heroic leader. Indi­ vidual compliance with the group was a basic value of the boys’ organiza­ tions that flourished at the turn of the twentieth century. These groups, which ranged from church associations like the paramilitary Boys’ Brigade to outdoor organizations like the Boy Scouts, shared vital quali­ ties: they were founded and run by adults with adult concerns m mind, and they placed a heavy emphasis on subordination of the boy to his larger group. As historian Joseph Kett has noted, such groups featured “rhetorical glorifications of strenuosity and will power [that] coexisted with the thrusting of youth into positions of extreme dependence.”46 This emphasis on submission to the group was not just an adult agenda for boys. It became part of a new emphasis in public discourse on the obligations of citizenship. National figures like Theodore Roo­ sevelt spoke gravely of a man’s “duty to the State and to the nation,” and cast off much of the language of suspicion in which republicans had once described the proper relation between the (male) individual and the state.47 The most dramatic instances of male submissiveness involved the cult of the leader that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century. In his study of heroes in American magazine articles, Theodore Greene has described the typical hero from 1894 to 1903 as an “idol of power.” Greene found that the traits most often depicted in presenting these men were those used for the mastery of others or of the physical envi­ ronment. Half of all the heroes’ relationships were portrayed in tenns of their dominance (as opposed tö love, help, cooperation, and so forth). Greene described these idols of power as Napoleonic men of ambition, force, and determination.48 Even in the next decade, when popular he­ roes in magazines gained a social conscience, they were still portrayed most often m terms of masterful qualities such as forcefulness and vigor.49 Greene’s evidence shows that this cult of the great man repre­ sented a historical change: a century earlier, magazine heroes had been measured in terms of their contributions to the social good.50 By the dawn of the twentieth century, then, old prescriptions for manhood were being replaced. Since the colonial era, ideals of manli­ ness had expressed a concern with the government of passions; since the revolution, manhood and independence had been closely linked. Now, male impulse was nurtured, manly reason was redefined, and bonds of dominance and submission between men became respectable. How could the new masculine values be integrated with the old? How could manly passion and strong leadership flourish without threatening civi-

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lization or democracy? Advocates of the new manhood found answers to these questions in the vogue of competitive athletics.

Competitive Sports: A Model for Manhood Northern men had engaged in physical games and contests almost from the time that British settlers came to New England. Wrestling matches and informal team games were played on special occasions under the loosest of rules. Boys did not wait for special occasions; from the colonial era to the nineteenth century, they enjoyed physical contests and in­ dulged in them as often as they could. The Puritans and their Yankee de­ scenderás approved of such games, which they considered wholesome exercise, as long as they were not played on the Sabbath or at times that interfered with work. In the middle of the nineteenth century, however, these games took on new meaning and heightened importance for Northern men.51 By the 1840s a new game called “baseball” was spreading rapidly. With roots m several ball games that were common in the Northeast, baseball became a vehicle for expressing rivalry between towns, neigh­ borhoods, and businesses. These rival groups organized their best play­ ers into teams that championed local honor in hotly contested "match games.” In the large cities of the 1840s and 1850s, baseball rivalries fo­ cused especially on work-based groups. The teams, at first a middle-class phenomenon, spread later to working-class men as well, but the spec­ tators for the games continued for many years to be middle class.52 Meanwhile other sports were finding favor. During the 1840s and 1850s, rowing enjoyed a great vogue, with clubs springing up in busi­ ness and professional circles. The first great intercollegiate contests were the rowing regattas of the late 1850s.53 During the antebellum years, fencing and boxing lessons even became acceptable for aspiring clerks and well-bred students/54 The significance of sport went beyond its growing popularity as a pas­ time; it was also important as a cultural phenomenon. This dimension was what gave athletics its special significance for the redefinition of manhood at the turn of the century. Before the Civil War, athletics was seen as a form of physical culture that strengthened the body, refreshed the soul, and increased a man’s resistance to luxury and vice.55 In the postbellum period, on the other hand, athletics came to mean competi­ tion and not mere exercise. At Phillips Exeter Academy, for instance.

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late-centuiy students demanded more of the school than simple physical training. Student sentiment urged “the boy to drop his chest weights, and don boxing gloves; to stop jogging on the track, and race; to quit sig­ nal practice and scrimmage. There is a difference between physical cul­ ture and athletics, and that is it.” The same rage for competitive sports was emerging at Exeter’s nval academy. In the 1890s, the letters written by Andover students showed an “exultation m the fanfare surrounding each contest with Exeter.” An­ dover boys at the time often dressed for the Sunday chapel service in their athletic uniforms. By the close of the 1800s, team sports had taken on a moral and social significance that far outstripped their old relation­ ship to physical culture.56 Between 1860 and 1890, baseball moved beyond local rivalries to be­ come the national pastime. At the same time, collegiate rivalries spread from crew races to football games, baseball matches, and track meets. Golf became a popular pastime for businessmen at the end of the 1800s, and tennis emerged m the 1870s as a new passion for male youth. The traditions of one affluent family claim that when a daughter m the house wanted to meet young men, she had a tennis court built in the backyard. The story may be apocryphal but the basic point remains: young men were preoccupied with sports, often to the exclusion of romance.57 What was the meaning of competitive athletics to those who advo­ cated them ? Men seeking a peacetime equivalent to war often turned to team sports with hope. Francis A. Walker believed that the manly traits inspired by Civil War experience were best taught in peacetime by “the competitive contests of our colleges.” Cultural confusion between militaiy combat and athletic combat was widespread, especially in the last two decades of the century when the Civil War experience was val­ orized. Walter Camp, the father of modem football, wrote at the turn of the centuiy that there was a “remarkable and interesting likeness be­ tween the theories which underlie great battles and the miniature contësts of the gridiron.” Camp’s contemporaries referred to quarterbacks as “field generals,” and called linemen “soldiers” (after World War I, lineman would be said to “battle in the trenches”). Perhaps the most dramatic instance of this confusion between team sports and war came from a conversation that poet Hamlin Garland had with novelist Stephen Crane. The author of The Red Badge o f Courage had never gone to war, so Garland asked him how he knew about it. Crane re­ sponded that he had played football and that its strategy and emotion were like a war, w itlrthe other team serving as the enemy.58 In a cultural setting where war and athletics were equated and war

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was thought to breed a new, forceful manhood, people readily came to the position that athletics, too, fostered the new form of manhood. At the start of the new centuiy, the president of Pnnceton praised competi­ tive sports as tests of manliness, “gentlemanly contests for supremacy.” And, in 1901, an education writer insisted that “manly social games, like football, basket-ball, baseball, are our best resources in developing . . . almost every characteristic of virility.”59 The claims for athletics as a source of manhood were so vast and var­ ied that they can best be understood in several categories. First of all, athletic contests were praised as breeding grounds for the fighting virtues. These included determination, “coolness, steadiness of nerve, quickness of apprehension,” “endurance against hunger, fatigue, and physical distress,” and—above all—courage.60 Through the expenence of team play, athletics were also credited with the development of social, cooperative, and even submissive virtues. In 1905, Cunningham LaPlace wrote in a magazine called The Outlook that team contests taught a youth “the subordination of the unit to the total, the habit of working with his fellows, of touching elbows.” Luther Gulick, a noted leader m work with boys, made the point most emphatically m 1899: team sports bred “heroic subordination of self to the group.”61 To most middle-class men in the nineteenth century, the phrase, “heroic subordination,” would have been a contradiction in terms. To men like Gulick at the turn of the twentieth century, the phrase made fine and noble sense. Courage, strength, and endurance meant more to them than independence, especially if a man subordi­ nated himself to the right cause. If the traits encouraged by team sports contradicted some of the re­ publican values that infused nmeteenth-century manhood, they did sup­ port some others. Competitive athletics, according to their advocates, counteracted one of the greatest sources of worry for republicans: those “dangerous tendencies in modem life” that often “produce neurotic and luxury-loving individuals.” Team contests demanded a strength, vigor, and physical assertiveness that undermined the ease and debility of modem affluence. Other proponents of sports, concerned with the greed of Gilded Age tycoons and politicians, claimed that the expenence of team contests restrained “the selfish, individualistic tendencies of the age.”62 According to popular belief, athletics also served as a moral force by thwarting those habits that the nineteenth century labeled collectively as “vice.” As one historian has argued, athletic training required precisely the sort of ascetic self-denial that might stop a youth from masturbating.

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Organized sports seemed to check other forms of vice as well. Henry Dwight Sedgwick recalled a group of schoolmates who swore, gambled, lied, and did very little work. He observed that none of die four played football, and speculated that the game would have had an “educational effect” on their moral tone.63 When supporters insisted that competitive athletics built character, then, they were claiming more than just the development of martial virtues; they were arguing that organized sports taught self-control, which would enable a boy to govern selfishness or sensual impulses. This line of thinking had an undertone of gender politics; luxury and selfindulgence—“effeminacy”—were considered quintessential female flaws which athletics could counteract. More than that, advocates of sport were claiming new cultural and social ground away from women. For a century, moral instruction had been regarded as a womans task, but now men asserted that all-male competition could do the job. Be­ neath this assertion lay an implied complaint that young males were reaching their teens and twenties without the moral training that they should have received from their mothers. Even as the advocates of athletics were making dramatic new claims about sports and morality, they pointed to academic benefits as well. Many agreed with Theodore Roosevelt that “those boys who take part m rough, hard play outside of school will not find any need for horse-play.” While sports siphoned off “animal spirits” so that boys could concentrate in the classroom, they could also teach a new respect for intelligence and cultivated skill. Ellery Clark, a former Harvard track star, testified that “a great light. . . burst upon [his] mind” when he realized that, m athletics, “skill was greater than strength, brain than muscle; and that the man who once thoroughly mastered the method of performing an event could thereafter hold his own with those infinitely his superiors m strength and size.”64 By the start of the twentieth century, then, the claims on behalf of the athletic experience were broad. Team sports seemed to offer benefits in every aspect of life. In fact, the men of the time treated athletics as a metaphor for life, or as a mirror that reflected the situations of life with a peculiar clarity. Here we find the historical roots of a cultural habit that, at the end of the twentieth century, seems timeless. For example, fi­ nancier Charles Flint, recalling his years as a hunter, “observed an indif­ ference to sports on die part of men of leisure as compared with the in­ tense delight of those who are transformed from business hustlers into hustlers after game.” This facile equation of business with sport, so fa­ miliar in later years, was a product of the tum-of-the-century era. It was

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an equation commonly made. Essayist Rafford Pyke used common ath­ letic imagery to make a different sort of point about manly honesty: “Fair play and the rigor of the game is a masculine ideal; men will trust and like and honor those who live up to its strict requirements.” The most famous comparison of life to athletics in this era came from that master of aphorisms, Theodore Roosevelt, when he said: “In life, as in a foot-ball game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don’t foul and don’t shirk but hit the line hard.” Sport, in sum, both reflected and illuminated men’s lives. It also served as “a means of preparation for the responsibilities of life” because it taught “qualities useful m any profes­ sion.”65 Most of all, athletics seemed to teach the qualities men needed m life because it was a competitive endeavor. Cunningham LaPlace, reflecting in 1905 on his sons college experience, turned a favorable eye on intra­ mural sports. LaPlace wrote that student fun “should take the form of a contest, since life is so constituted that this is its law. Every man who ob­ tains a position of responsibility and of corresponding remuneration does so because some man or group selects him from a field as the one who is considered to be best qualified.” “A young man,” wrote LaPlace, “can best learn” this phase of life from competitive games. Henry Shel­ don, a scholar of student customs, shared LaPlace’s view of life as inher­ ently competitive. Commenting on college sports, he wrote: Athletics have flourished in proportion as the competitive feature has been emphasized. In many colleges the chief motive power is not an in­ terest m physical training, but a craving for distinction, an ambition to beat some one. Among nations of Anglo-Saxon descent the desire for ex­ ercise is chiefly the result, not the cause, of competitive contests. Whatever the source of this “ambition to beat some one,” everyone seemed to agree that athletics took their value and their appeal from their reflection of life’s “inherently” competitive nature.™ Increasingly, the appeal of the athletic contest exerted its sway over spectators as well as youthful participants. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, middle-class males provided a mass following for professional baseball and college football.67 The popularity of these spectator sports was intimately related to the fact that they were compe­ titions. Historian Leonard Ellis has analyzed their deep structure in a way that links their appeal persuasively to their nvalrous nature. Foot­ ball pitted one team against the other in the conquest and defense of territory. It emphasized teamwork, an elaborate division of labor, a hier-

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archy of roles, and intricate strategies in the service of team competition, thus rendering the experience of bureaucratic work—which was just emerging at the end of the century—in dramatic physical form. As Ellis analyzes it, baseball had a very different sort of structure. The two teams did not engage in direct combat, but rather took turns m an exercise at home-leaving and successful return. From the safety of “home,” one individual after another attem pted to enter a hostile territoiy and negotiate a safe arrival back at home. The constant repetition of home-leaving and return mirrored the daily journeys of men into the world and back again.68 Baseball embodied not just the competition of nineteenth-centuiy manhood but also the organization of male life into zones of striving and safety. Sports seemed to mirror men’s lives, and that was the greatest source of athletics’ appeal as public drama, as a teaching device, and as a means for building manly character.

Competition and the Evolution of Manhood If contests mirrored life, , life at the end of the nineteenth century seemed more and more to mirror a contest. Repeatedly, men of this era described their lives, and especially their work, in the language of com­ petitive games. Morton S. Bailey, as a young lawyer in the boom town of late-century Denver, described his future in terms of winners and losers: “H ere is a vast field for workers and vast amounts of money to be gotten, if I am only equal to the contest I shall win, if weak then some other and stronger one will carry off the spoils.” We have seen also that Charles Francis Adams used the metaphor of contest to describe life in his time, calling it “the rather rough game of American nineteenth-century life.”69 An underlying structure of competition had, in fact, been built into men’s work lives for some time. The marketplace of Adam Smith and the political framework of James Madison both relied on competition as the mainspring that made them function. Their models had a formative im­ pact on the way men understood and continued to shape the public world. The metaphor of separate spheres can also be understood as a kind of cultural fantasy about the way in which the impact of competi­ tion on society—and on men in particular—might be softened. By the late nineteenth century, however, middle-class Americans had gone beyond the element of competition inherent in their economic and political systems. They had begun to import competition as a motivating device into activities that were basically solitaiy. Sunday schools by mid­ century were offering prizes to their best pupils in the hope of hastening

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salvation of souls and increasing student interest at the same time. Spelling bees were a handy tool to make the lone drudgery of memoriza­ tion more appealing, and art competitions grew common. Competition was invested with magical powers to inspire the utmost personal achievement and to lend drama to life’s w ork/0 For men, competition became an obsession. They even imposed it on situations where it was entirely out of place. George Diyer, the business manager of a mental institution in Minnesota, brought a note of gratu­ itous competition into the birth of his first child in 1870. The letter that announced his daughters birth also pointed out to his father that, “this being the first child of its generation, [it] seems to me [she] ought to have the ‘prize cup’ ‘family premium’ or something else to commemo­ rate the event.” No such contest had been organized and no prizes were announced, but, in a society where a man’s life was increasingly con­ ceived as an endless round of competitions, George Diyer s call for a re­ ward made natural sense.71 Indeed, the phenomenon that needs explanation may not be behavior like George Dryer’s, but rather the fact that competition had no part in the ideal traits of manhood until the late nineteenth century. As a vital structuring element of male culture from the play of boyhood to the se­ rious business of the public arena, competition was certainly a central process m the lives of nineteenth-century men. Why did the competitive element have no place among the virtues that defined middle-class man­ hood through most of the centuiy? A large part of the answer may lie in the historical context that produced those ideals of manliness. They emerged in the early nineteenth century, when society was moving away from hierarchy and stability toward a dynamic world of individual liberty and achieved status. Yet, while people disdained the static, role-bound deference of the old order, they also feared the destructive potential of the new, competitive one. Rivalry and contention had created social chaos in the past; how could a new society be maintained with those qualities at its core? Certainly not by treating them as precious skills or desirable traits in a man. Rather, men’s contending passions were treated as a necessary evil in the new social order of the early nineteenth century. Because they were the engines of prosperity and political life, they were not suppressed; but these competitive impulses were carefully channeled by customs and values of male peer groups, were criticized by women and clergy­ men, and were symbolically quarantined by the separation of spheres. Indeed, our current notion of a competitive person is a recent histori­ cal development. The word competitive did not even enter the English

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language until the early nineteenth centuiy. When it did, it applied to situations (“competitive examination”) or institutions (“competitive soci­ eties”), not to individuals.72 Nineteenth-centuiy men and women did not have a language to describe in positive (or even neutral) terms a person who relished contest. They had only words like contentious (which had negative, disruptive connotations) and rivalrous (which had negative overtones of personal animosity, not generalized competition). In this world, the words did not exist to make a man feel good about being com­ petitive. By the 1880s and 1890s, the doctrine of separate spheres—the official model of gender relations—had lost some of its coercive power over bourgeois families. From one direction, women were entering many public worlds and demanding entry to others. From the other direction, men were assaulting the doctrine in ways that were less visible but still crucial. By devising male mechanisms like athletics for building charac­ ter, men were challenging female sovereignty over the moral instruction of boys. By asserting the positive value of competition and competitive­ ness, they were undermining the moral foundation on which the separa­ tion of spheres was built. O f course, men still supported the doctrine of spheres in many re­ spects. Most, for instance, continued to favor the separation of women from public power. What men rejected were the notions that competi­ tion was morally destructive for men and that women were better quali­ fied than men to nurture all aspects of male character. This rejection of­ fers us a clue as to why standards of manhood were changing m the late nineteenth century. Bourgeois men felt increasingly that the notions of “civilization” that lay embedded in the doctrine of the spheres were in­ sidious and even socially destructive. The new manhood was m part a male ,rebellion against cultural standards that middle-class men of previ­ ous generations had helped to sustain.

Chapter I I

R O O T S OF C H A N G E The Women Without and the Woman Within

IN the nud-1890s, Ray Stannard Baker went to a dinner of the Hamil­ ton Club, a group of Republican loyalists in Chicago. A young Eastern politician spoke to the club that night, and he galvanized Baker with his ideas and his manner. Baker later recalled: “I was greatly impressed by his vigor, his directness, and his fearlessness.” The speaker was Theodore Roosevelt. He was, said Baker, a “cowboy, hard rider, straightshooter, bold speaker, champion of the people, gifted in telling the rich old fellows, many of whom were present on that evening, to say nothing of the cultured ‘mugwumps,’ where they got off!” In the years that fol­ lowed, Baker became a leading progressive journalist and a “friend and loyal supporter” of Roosevelt. In his devotion to Roosevelts style and principles, Baker belonged to a large segment of men in Ins generation: “I was not the only youngster who believed in the ‘strenuous life’: there were thousands of us who had recently come from the frontier, and the farm, and the plains. Not a few of us felt that we had something to do in saving an America that seemed to us to be going astray.”1 Bakers generation included a wide variety of middle-class men who were drawn to the strenuous passion and primitive vigor embodied by Roosevelt. Some of these men, like Baker, were progressives, but others were cool to Roosevelt s political views; some, like Baker, were rural en­ trants to the middle-class world, but more of them had roots already in bourgeois America. Regardless of background or political views, all of them were drawn to Roosevelts personal portrayal of a new style of mas­ culinity. As Baker describes the attraction, this bold manliness was an

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antidote to something in “America that seemed . . . to be going astray.” But what was this problem? To what social ills was the new masculinity an antidote? What caused the emergence of this energetic form of man­ hood?

Changes in Men’s Sphere The standards of manhood that guided middle-class men during the nineteenth century emerged m a rapidly developing commercial econ­ omy and in the wake of a republican revolution. By the end of the nine­ teenth century, these standards had survived into a very different era. The changes in the economic environment were especially sharp. An in­ dustrial economy had emerged, and the development of national mar­ kets in the late nineteenth centuiy propelled businessmen into a quest for economies of scale. Sprawling new firms that served huge markets spawned bureaucracies which employed armies of executives, salespeo­ ple, and clerical workers. The number of salaried, nonpropertied work­ ers (virtually all white-collar) multiplied eight times between 1870 and 1910. Twenty percent of the total male work force was white-collar by 1910. Even more important for the men studied here, corporations hired their own corps of experts from new professions such as engineer­ ing and accounting, and retained the services of law firms whose entire practice was devoted to corporate interests.2 The expanding bureaucracy had a significant effect on manhood. The largest num ber of jobs appeared at the lowest levels, where work was routine and required skills were limited. The biggest proportional in­ crease of jobs came in the middle-level positions such as bookkeeper, su­ pervisor, and salesman. The lower-level posts were filled with growing numbers of women. Employers assumed that these female workers, mostly young and single, would stay with the firm only until they mar­ ried; thus, they promoted men to the midlevel jobs. This discrimination did little to open up long-range prospects for those men, however. Top management posts were filled increasingly by college graduates, men with connections to other firms and lines of work. Midlevel workers were likely to be graduates of the new high schools; they were trained by the company and rarely made lateral moves to other firms. In short, a glass ceiling separated middle and upper bureaucrats. Their horizons in­ side and outside the company were distinctly different.3 These patterns of employment marked a dramatic change from the ones that had prevailed through most of the centuiy. The clerk, no

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longer an apprentice for business leadership, was now a service worker with little chance of making it to the top. The route upward was much longer, and the barriers along the way were largely insurmountable. Even the men who entered an organization in its upper ranks con­ fronted a new definition of opportunity. The mark of success had once been prosperity as an independent owner; now it was victoiy in the struggle of executives for the top spot. Ultimately, the winner was still an employee. In the new order, eveiy businessman had to submit—the suc­ cessful one was the man who submitted to the fewest others. As a larger proportion of business and professional work moved into big cities, the scale of urban life compounded the trouble created by massive corporations. Public distinction was much harder for a man to achieve. One urban businessman with small-town roots summanzed the problem in a colloquial paraphrase of Julius Caesar: “What does Caesar say, somewhere? I think he said he’d rather be first in a tank town than second in Rome. Well, I ain’t second here. I ain’t even five hundred thousand and second. But I could have been first back there [at home].” As men were funneled into large organizations in large cities, they had more competitors for fewer prizes.4 Even in the legal profession, where most practices were still small, there was a widespread feeling that the chances for distinction were waning. One lawyer recalls the transformation of the late nineteenth century m these terms: Law was changing; the old order, when distinguished orators deemed their most important moments spent in arguing before court or jury, was passing away; now the important lawyers were closeted m inner rooms, guarded by office boys, clerks, stenographers, who only admitted officials of great corporations—for organization, for mergers, for bond issues, for any schemes to obtain wealth.5 This comparison romanticized the past, ignoring the avarice and brutal self-concern that often typified nineteenth-century lawyers. Still, the view was widely shared in the legal profession; it expressed a concern that public distinction and masterful independence were vanishing. The question that haunted the profession has been phrased in this way by a legal historian: “Could a lawyer on retainer to a corporation . . . still be a manly advocate?”6 Worries of this sort were common throughout the business world and the professions. In the nineteenth century, middle-class men had be­ lieved that a true man was a self-reliant being who would never bow to

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unjust autliority or mere position. The new structures of work and op­ portunity in the marketplace did not support such a concept of man­ hood." The new work world of the middle class threatened manhood m a second way. Through most of the nineteenth century, the people with mercantile or professional responsibility were men. The public world, after all, was the male sphere. As we have seen, however, women began to breach men’s domain late m the century. Even though men held onto power and prestige, their sense of manly prerogative was threatened. Women s presence made a symbolic statement to men that the world of middle-class work was no longer a male club. To the extent that a place m the professions or business served as a badge of manhood, manhood was now being undermined. O f course, men m the lower levels of bureaucracy were threatened more directly. Women became an established part of their work world by the early twentieth century.8 Males and females were colleagues and even competitors. The promotions did go chiefly to the men, but a tri­ umph over feminine nvals was not a great boost to a mans sense of man­ liness. As women came to dominate clerical positions, they also had an effect on the middle-class work environment. Even top executives and senior law partners had women entering their offices as secretaries and stenog­ raphers. The female presence femimzed the middle-class workplace by more than sheer numbers. Symbolic changes of atmosphere marked their presence. Spittoons—a ubiquitous feature of the male office in the nineteenth century—disappeared soon after women arrived. The ideal workspace, as depicted m advertisements and catalogues, took on the trappings of a parlor, with carpets, plants, and paintings. Now a man had to be genteel in his language at work as at home. No one, to be sure, would have confused the office with the domestic world; but the subjec­ tive reality for men was that their workplace was not masculine in the same sense that it had been.9 If men had responded rationally to the situation, they could have al­ tered their standards of manhood to fit their circumstances. Indeed, both the cult of athletics and the model of military manliness included a high regard for teamwork, group loyalty, and respect for authority as manly virtues. Still, gender is. not a subject easily treated with reason, es­ pecially not m a culture that regarded it as a m atter of high moral princi­ ple. Thus, when changes in the workplace caused men to feel uncertain of their manhood, their pnm aiy response was to seek new forms of reas-

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surance about it. Strenuous recreation, spectator sports, adventure nov­ els, and a growing cult of the wilderness all served this need; but the need was most fully served by the new ideas about manliness. These ideas reaffirmed the importance of manhood and asserted a new pride m traits that had previously been attributed to men—and roundly con­ demned. The changes in the middle-class workplace cannot by themselves ac­ count for the growth and spread of the new, more primitive emphasis in manhood. Some of its most vigorous proponents were artists and small­ town professionals who worked outside of the emerging urban bureau­ cracies. The changes in the work world did play a key role, however, in preparing the way for fresh ideas about manliness. As the transformation of the marketplace threw old ideals into question, men of that world lis­ tened eagerly to new ideas about manhood.

Gender and the Perils of Civilization In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bourgeois males worned about the dangers of civilization. One man fretted over boys who lived “in a quiet city,. . . leading an unambitious, namby-pamby life, surrounded by all the safeguards of civilization.” Another warned that men “must be on our guard to see that modem conditions do not soften our fiber until, when confronted with hardships, we become as helpless as a hermit crab without a shell.” Men of the late 1800s even helped to bring a new word into the American language—overcivilized.10 In some ways, this collective anxiety was as old as the nation itself. The revolutionary generation had feared that luxury, ease, and idleness would subvert the republican experiment; but something more was bothering men in the late nineteenth century, and it involved the con­ nections between gender and the definitions of civilization. To understand these changes, we need to know something about the history of the word civilization. It entered the language in the eigh­ teenth century. At the time, it referred to a condition of society that was raised above barbarism; it also referred to the institutions and arts of liv­ ing which accounted for that elevated condition.11 Men of the eigh­ teenth century were happy to take credit for the enlightened and refined developments that constituted civilization. The postrevolutionary gener­ ations m the United States changed the gender meaning of civilization, however, when they developed the notion of the separate spheres. While

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men were expected to toil in a cruel, barbaric marketplace, women were to maintain the moral values that kept men civilized. Thus, civilization developed female connotations. By the late nineteenth century, men were rebelling against the impli­ cations of a civilization that was not manly. Male commentators wrote that society m the United States was becoming "womanized” or “femi­ nized.” The most famous of these laments comes from Henry James’s 1886 novel. The Bostonians. In it, the male protagonist, Basil Ransom, declares: The whole generation is womanized; the masculine tone is passing out of the world; it’s a femimne, a nervous, hysterical, chattering, canting age, an age of hollow phrases and false delicacy and exaggerated solicitudes and coddled sensibilities* which, if we don’t soon look out, will usher in the reign of mediocrity, of the feeblest and flattest and the most preten­ tious that has ever been.12 The anxious hostility of this statement grew out of male fears about women’s role m shaping late nineteenth-century society. These fears were several in land. Many men bemoaned women’s dominance in the process of raising male children, and they pointed to a rising generation of boys who seemed spoiled and dishonest, a pack of “flat-chested cigarette smokers with shaky nerves and doubtful vitality.”13 They worried that women’s growing dominion over the teaching profes­ sion was ushering in “a regime of sugaty benignity.”14 They noted with concern that women now set the standards of appearance and decorum. Women established the sentimental tone of bourgeois Protestant reli­ gion, and their values and sensibilities played a major role in forming literaiy tastes. In private, women enforced sexual virtue. By canying out their role as the guardians of “civilized morality,” middle-class females affected men as agents of unreasoning restraint.10 For most of the centuiy, men heard these voices of restraint in public exhortation, in private talk, and in the accents of their own consciences. Then, during the last third of the nineteenth century, a new and forceful voice—another female one—joined this chorus of control. Through vari­ ous social movements, women attem pted to change men’s public habits. The largest of these movements was embodied in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (founded in 1874). A proliferation of other related movements was led in importance by the crusade for sexual purity, but it included campaigns against a variety of masculine pastimes from frater­ nal lodges to boxing matches.16

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Of course men had encouraged women in their role as the guardians of civilized morality since the start of the century, and some men even played an active role m the social crusades of the late 1800s. As a grow­ ing company of bourgeois males began to have second thoughts about the definition of civilized morality, however, they started to criticize those campaigns. A middle-class critic of the antiboxing movement wrote in 1888: “Let thinking men who value their manhood set them ­ selves in array . . . against . . . those w ho,. . . caught by such specious watchwords as ‘progress,’ ‘civilization,’ and ‘refinement,’ have unthink­ ingly thrown their weight into the falling scale." The enemy, then, was not only the misguided people who joined the causes but the notion of civilization for which they fought: Has mawkish sentimentality become the shibboleth of the progress, civi­ lization and refinement of this vaunted age? If so, then in Heaven’s name leave us a saving touch of honest, old-fashioned barbarism! that when we come to die, we shall die, leaving men behind us, and not a race of emi­ nently respectable female saints.17 For the first time, men were openly rebelling against the fundamental principles embedded in the doctrine of separate spheres. Rather than civilize themselves according to a feminized definition, men took the negative labels affixed to their character and made them into virtues. Primitive, savage, barbarian, passion, impulse—the underside of male character that bourgeois culture had stigmatized was now brought to light for fond inspection.18 The obsessions of male writing about man­ hood in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—competition, battle, physical aggression, bodily strength, primitive virtues, manly pas­ sions—all were inversions of "feminized” Victorian civilization. After nearly a centuiy of accepting the moral terms of separate spheres, why did men suddenly offer public resistance? The answer to this question is complex, but an important piece of it lies in the growing penetration of the public sphere by women. Men had endorsed women’s moral stewardship as long as it did not extend to their public sources of power and pleasure, but they began to balk when women attacked tav­ erns, lodges, and brothels. This threat helped to set off the male reexam­ ination of civilized morality and primitive manliness. Men also turned to assertions of their own “barbarism” in response to a second kind of female incursion into men’s sphere. As we know, women in the late nineteenth centuiy were pouring into business offices, fighting for a place in the learned professions, running settlement houses, and

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graduating from secondary schools and colleges in record numbers. Most threatening of all to men, they were campaigning for the right to vote. Few middle-class men were eager to share their power and prerogatives with the opposite sex, and to some extent the new talk of male passion and savagery came from their attempt to defend the sanctity of their sphere. As women tried to enter the rough arena of money and power, men defended their turf by stressing gender contrasts that had been arti­ cles of bourgeois cultural faith for most of the century. They emphasized the same rude passions for which their sex had been commonly criti­ cized—greed and combativeness, selfish drive and brutish instincts, a lust for power and a love of crudeness.19 These, they reminded women, were the reasons why men occupied the harsh world of economic and political struggle. As men repeated these masculine traits over and over in defense of their worldly dominance, the traits became a source of male pride. Standing in the shadow of the Civil War, it made even more sense to boast—not apologize—about the fighting passions. We need, of course, to be clear about what these bourgeois males did and did not want when they asserted their primitive nature. Men did not want American society to descend into barbarism; they were still content to cede significant moral authority to women; and they did not wish to challenge the prevalent cultural division of traits between the two sexes. What they did wish to do was to keep their sources of power and plea­ sure undisturbed. More than that, they hoped to impose a new metaphor for understanding human endeavor—a metaphor that would exalt “male” passions and fighting virtues to a place of honor that they lacked m the metaphor of separate spheres. In this light, Social Darwin­ ism can be seen as more than a justification for the ill-gotten gams of robber barons. It becomes an alternative to the genteel definition of civi­ lization contained m the doctrine of the spheres. In the Social Darwin­ ist’s vision, civilization was not just a m atter of reason, complex institu­ tions, and refined manners. It was the triumph of man over man m primitive struggle—a trium ph won with fierce, fighting virtues by men not afraid to face the strenuous life. True, reason and self-control gave the man at the pinnacle of civilization a competitive edge over those who were more “barbaric.” But reason and restraint were only helpful if they were attached to a core of combative strength and vigor. In this view, civ­ ilization could not exist without the male passions. They were honorable, they were creative, they were the primitive base on which all else rested—and, while they needed control and direction, they could not be lost or severely confined without enfeebling the civilization that rested on them.20

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As we have seen, this ennoblement of manly passion expressed male rebellion against the “feminizing” influence of the separate spheres doc­ trine. It was also a reminder to women that life in the world of business and politics required the rough masculine virtues, and that world was not a suitable place for the delicate feminine sensibility. When men ex­ alted male passion, their behavior had unexpected implications for the way in which manhood was defined. Through most of the century, a man had understood himself as the opposite of two people—a woman and a boy. He overcame the boy in himself by putting a tight rem on the male impulses that ran loose in a boy. With the revaluation of male impulse in the later years of the century, men were rethinking the relationship of manhood to boyhood.

The Manly Embrace of Boyhood At the surface, the nineteenth-century middle class regarded boyhood fondly. The views of Rousseau and the romantic poets invested all chil­ dren with innocence and spontaneity, and these views were reflected in popular sentimental images.21 Boys and girls in the earliest years of life were portrayed alike as sweet, innocent lambs, just as their clothing marked them as fluffy, soft, and indistinguishable. Then, at about the same point in childhood when boys stepped into trousers, their image was changed. Now invested with a strong will and a full complement of physical skills, boys m pants were seen as rowdy, rude, and irresponsible. The change was probably the result of deeper feelings about boys coming to the surface, feelings that expressed themselves in various ways: the father twiddling his infant sons penis into erection, for exam­ ple, or adults giving “large-motor” toys to male toddlers and “smallmotor” toys to females.22 Underneath the sense—the hope—of child­ hood innocence, the nineteenth-century middle class believed deeply in sex difference. Ultimately, adults attached the new idea of the unblem­ ished child to the girl (thus connecting her to female passionlessness), while attaching older notions of original sin to the boy (thus connecting him to m ens passionate “nature”). In a sense, bourgeois culture cleansed Eve of her original sin, while letting Adam be Adam. This negative valuation of boyhood showed up in many forms during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century. Henry Coit, the first headmaster of St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, believed that boys were “possessed, in a greater or lesser degree, by the devil.” A graduate of another boarding school, Phillips Academy in Andover, recalled that

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Dr. Samuel Taylor—who headed the school from 1837 to 1871—was convinced of “the total depravity of the great majority of the boys . he ruled as if he believed they were far gone from righteousness.”23 Casual word usage also suggests the negative image that boys earned. Thomas Wentworth Higgmson, for instance, wrote of “a certain stigma of boyishness.” In 1835, when men of all ages took to the streets in Utica, New York, to riot against the meeting of the state’s antislaveiy so­ ciety, the mob was denounced as a group of “vicious boys.” Historian Mary Ryan has also noted that the “term ‘boy’ was often synonymous with prankster in the pages of the Utica press.”24 It was these attitudes about the rough, impulsive nature of boyhood that led people to contrast it with the reason and restraint of manhood. Boyhood and manhood were distinct in another sense, too, since, for the urban middle class, men’s world and boys’ world were separate. Geo­ graphically, their realms did not overlap, except at home m the evemng and on Sunday. And as phases of life, manhood and boyhood had little relation to each other. There was no career ladder or rite of passage to mark the change from boy to man. Then, in the late nineteenth centuiy, these patterns changed. Boy­ hood was glorified, boys’ vices suddenly became men’s virtues, and the two phases of life developed a more natural connection to one another. Men embraced boyhood at the same time that they were learning to value savageiy, passion, and the embodied manhood of the athlete and the soldier. The rising estimation of boyhood began with the growing regard for those childish traits that people considered more boyish than girlish— exuberance, spontaneity, a love of free play. In the middle to later years of the century, a negative image of tame children developed. The scorn­ ful terms that framed this image—“very odd old-mannish little boys,” “not wild enough for a child”—suggest a positive new regard for the kind of energetic abandon that had made boys a target of criticism for so many years. Parents now grew anxious when their sons turned away from play.25 By the turn of the century, adults were endorsing boyish behaviors that they had once condemned. G. Stanley Hall asserted that a boy in his early teens “whom the lady teacher and the fond mother call a perfect gentleman must have something wrong with him.” According to Hall, this was “the stage of roistering and youth must have a certain fling.”26 With such attitudes, bourgeois culture of the late nineteenth century was not really cleansing the sons of Adam of their sins, as it had already

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done for the daughters of Eve. Rather, it was turning those sins into virtues.27 In the process, another crucial image changed. For the upgrading of boyhood contrasted with the downgrading of adult manhood. Grown males were deemed not only ignorant but pompous, greedy, and egocen­ tric as well. As Daniel Carter Beard entered adulthood, he “planned a world in which the boys might get together and make known their wants and ambitions, not a world of gray-headed philosophers or a world of money-getting baldheads or of selfish middle-aged people.” Thomas Wentworth Higginson condemned adult men even more harshly, accus­ ing them of trying “to bnng insanity, once the terrible prerogative of maturer life, down into the summer region of childhood, with blight and rum.”28 Boys may have always had such feelings, since they were small and powerless next to grown men; what was new m the late nineteenth century was that these feelings were expressed by their targets: adult men. Men of the comfortable classes were apparently growing up with­ out renouncing the perceptions or the pleasures of boyhood. These men were doing more than complaining about manhood. They intended to reform it, to nd it of its pomposity. They proposed to do this with massive infusions of boyishness. Beards cure for “a world of grayheaded philosophers” and “money-getting baldheads” was “a world filled with men who still retained some of the urge of boyhood.” In Beard’s turn-of-the-century generation, men favored the saying that age is “sim­ ply ‘a quality of the mind’” and praised the man advanced in years who “is still a young man.” Thomas Wentworth Higginson complained of those who exalted “full-grown men” and “the dignity of manhood.” “Full-grown men?” he wrote. “There is not a person in the world who can afford to be a ‘full-grown man’ through all the twenty-four hours.” If men would only throw themselves “with boyish eagerness” into “games and sports” or “mere physical exertion,” they would transform them­ selves.29 Boyhood, in all its spontaneity and vigor, would embrace drab, overcivilized manhood. The child would be the savior of the man. As men sought to transform themselves with an infusion of boyhood, they looked at their own sons and saw that they too were suffering from an excess of civilization. Rather than watch the sources of manliness sti­ fled m boyhood, men devised new institutions to nurture and protect male impulse in the boy. Elite boarding schools were transformed from a model based on the patriarchal family to one based on boy culture. Moved from the antebellum boardinghouse into the postbellum dormi­ tory, the student was now confined with a large num ber of other boys

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under minimal supervision. He encountered competition, shifting hier­ archies, cruelties, loyalties, and pranks, as he would have in boys’ world at home. Instead of returning to his family at night for peace and nur­ ture, however, he had only more of “the crowding pressure, the weight of numbers, the incessant chatter and clatter, remorseless and unend­ ing” m a boys' dormitoiy. This heroic dose of boyhood would cure overcivilized lads and turn them into men, or so the thinking went.30 Middle-class men, for the most part, did not send their sons to elite schools; but they prescribed a similar medicine m the hope of curing boys of the disease of feminized upbringing.31 The doses for middleclass boys were small and carefully measured, and they were to be ad­ ministered by men and not by other boys. In the late nineteenth century, a wide variety of organizations began to work with boys. The churches started organizations like the Knights of King Arthur, while outdoor groups like the Sons of Daniel Boone and the Woodcraft Indians prolif­ erated, and the YMCA plunged energetically into activity for boys. The ultimate organization, o f course, was the Boy Scouts of America, which was founded somewhat later in 1910. These organizations meant to in­ troduce coddled boys to the wilderness, to competition, to hardy play and strenuous virtue. In these boys’ groups as at boarding schools, men were intervening to provide “boyish” experiences so that boys would not lose touch with the sources o f manhood. A new and very positive vision of the relationship between boyhood and manhood was emerging;32 As men exalted boyhood and questioned the restrictions placed on middle-class manhood, the two phases of life seemed to converge m concept. One indicator of this convergence comes from the fact that, in the second half of the nineteenth century, grown men were ever more likely to be called boys.33 The impetus for this habit of speech may have come from mothers who still thought of adult sons as boys. It was com­ mon in the late 1800s for women to call grown sons their “boys” or even their “babies.” The habit spread from that relationship to courting and married couples. Women boasted of their familiarity with "the little child that lies hidden in the manhood of our husbands,” while some hus­ bands and fiancés liked to call themselves “your boy” when writing to the women they loved.34 Men also identified themselves as boys .in con­ texts far removed from the male-female bond. On his forty-fifth birthday in 1882, John Burroughs boasted in his journal that he was “much of a boy yet at heart.” In 1892, Edward Bok wrote in a Ladies* Home Journal editorial that ‘W e men are after all, but grown up boys.”35 The great appeal of boyishness to men is evident m some of Americas greatest tum -of-the-centuiy heroes. After the closing of the frontier, the

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nations veneration of the independent W esterner focused on a man identified as a child: the cowboy. This hero was a man in his exploits but as heedless of civilized restraint as a boy. The eras greatest idol, Theodore Roosevelt, embodied many of the traits associated with boy­ hood: energy, candor, curiosity, impatience, combativeness, impulsive­ ness, a keen sense of fun, and even a high noise level. Just as the public identified Roosevelt with the appeal of boyhood, he and his friends iden­ tified him as an overgrown boy. “You must always remember,” wrote one associate, “that the President is about six.” When Roosevelt himself was asked why lie had, in his fifties, gone on a dangerous expedition up the Amazon, he replied, “I had to go. It was my last chance to be a boy.”36 An equally striking reversal was the growing tendency to label certain kinds of boys as “manly.” In 1871, a teenage girl wrote for publication in a boys’ newspaper an ode in praise of “our, noble manly boys.” Twenty years later, an educator asserted that: “Boys among boys are ashamed to be unmanly.” And Theodore Roosevelt, in an essay on American boys, prescribed that “the boy should be manly and able to hold his own.”37 The erosion of cultural and social barriers between boyhood and manhood led ultimately to new relations between generations of males. Some fathers m the late nineteenth century breached formal authority and sought a new familiarity with their sons, following the urge, as one man put it, to "call our sons ‘pals.’” At the same time, teacher-student re­ lations at boarding schools were shifting. As the belief in the educative power of boyhood replaced the belief in boyhood depravity, the men at these institutions took a more egalitarian role. A boarding-school teacher became something of a manly older brother to his students—a model, a guide, a friend.38 With men seeking to preserve the boy inside them, with boys cultivat­ ing their manly qualities, and with the elders relating to youngsters as peers, the notions of boyhood and manhood were converging. The two stages of life had not entirely dissolved into one another, but they were now seen as different phases m the unfolding of the very same male essence. This trend was reflected in the construction of a new set of develop­ mental customs that provided a firm structure for the close new connec­ tion between boyhood and manhood. The habit of dressing young boys like young girls began to change at the turn of the century. Male chil­ dren moved into trousers at age two or three, not six or seven. Now, a boy would have no clear memory of wearing anything other than pants.39 More dramatically, men at the start of the twentieth century were shaping the world of boyhood more closely than they had done one hun-

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dred years before. The most sweeping changes came m the reordenng of education. Schooling in the northeastern states had been loose and unsystematic through most of the nineteenth century, and there had been no well-defined ladder of ascent to provide a sense of relation be­ tween boyhood and manhood.40 In the last two decades of the centuiy, this system changed suddenly and drastically. Compulsory education laws were passed, feeding children through systems that were tightly or­ ganized into age-graded ladders of ascent. The school year, traditionally vaned in length, fell into a nine-to-ten-month standard. Public high schools proliferated. College education became more common as public universities sprang up m every state, and the route to college lay directly through public or private secondary schools. More middle-class jobs had formal education requirements. Positions m the new worlds of engineer­ ing and corporate management sometimes required a college degree, and the modem arrangement of professional schools emerged m law and medicine.41 For a middle-class boy (or one who might aspire to middle-class sta­ tus), there was now a ladder of ascent—with each rung carefully marked—that led up through the primary and secondary grades, into college, and on, if necessary, to postgraduate education. A schoolboy could look up that ladder and know precisely when he would become a man and what he had to do to reach that point. The rungs of that ladder could tell him exactly where he was on his journey to manhood. Gone were the eccentric routes of access, the vague age boundaries, and the mysterious requirements. Gone, too, was the indulgence of idiosyncrasy and of the slow, circuitous approach. To achieve manhood, one no longer gathered experience—one met prerequisites. At the same time that this system of ascent was developing, boyhood was undergoing another change that set it in closer relation to manhood. That change involved the shaping of boys’ activities by men, a change that was most evident in the development of modern sports. As we know, baseball evolved out of a myriad of boys’ ball games involving some sort of home base. At first, male youth developed several variants of baseball with nonstandardized rules. Eventually, employers formed teams of young adults, and finally the very best players—without any common affiliation—formed themselves into clubs on the basis of exper­ tise. They smoothed'out. variations into one set of rules by the 1850s, and the formal ball clubs provided popular entertainm ent which local boys watched avidly. They, m turn, began to play the standardized version of the game. In a sense, boys had lent their game to adults and borrowed it back in

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a very different form. Once, they had played the game for fun and exer­ cise and to establish the superiority of individual talents. Then adults took over the game and invested it with their own preoccupations. By the time boys relearned the game from their older athletic heroes, elab­ orate team competition had become the whole point of baseball. The common understanding of the game had changed so thoroughly that a man in the early twentieth century was shocked when he discovered a group of boys playing ball without caring who won or even keeping score.42 At the turn of the century, men seized control of another realm of boys’ activity—the high school and college extracurriculum. We have seen that the extracurriculum had originally evolved to make up for the inadequacies of the college curriculum. The students themselves had founded literary societies and debating clubs m the early 1800s, and then formed athletic programs and student governments and newspa­ pers later in the century. These teams and student organizations were funded and run by students with no assistance from the colleges until the 1880s and 1890s.43 At that point, the colleges moved to take control of the extracurriculum. W here they had once treated student societies and athletics as a noisy diversion from the serious academic purposes of the college, ad­ ministrators by the late nineteenth century viewed them as a splendid tool for building manly character. For clubs and societies, the college provided money, space, legitimacy, and a faculty adviser who could offer continuity and set limits on behavior. For athletic teams, the administra­ tion hired coaches, bought equipment, provided facilities, arranged schedules, and tightened the rules of the game.44 During the 1890s, college life (primarily the extracurriculum) achieved a glamorous aura m the eyes of the public. This image, com­ bined with the persuasive arguments of college administrators about the value of student activities, had a powerful impact on the public high schools that were springing up at the end of the nineteenth century. School superintendents and high school principals created an extracur­ ricular realm at the new secondary schools that directly and consciously imitated that of the colleges. These high school clubs and teams bore even more of an adult imprint than those at the collegiate level. That was especially important, because it was m its high school form—as an adult-sponsored “learning experience”—that the extracurriculum af­ fected the largest numbers of male youth. The extracurnculum as shaped by adults taught institutional loyalty, hard work, and competitive advancement—all in a spirit of “boyish” or “youthful” fun.45

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Thus, grown men came to exercise greater control over boys' time and activity at the end of the nineteenth century. They established a clearer, more continuous link between boyhood and manhood, and they extended their sway over a larger portion of boyhood by extending the time and importance of schooling and by shaping boys’ activities in ac­ cordance with their own concerns. In taking over boys’ play, men s pur­ pose was to foster habits they saw as crucial to manhood—-group rivalry, competitive advancement, the rejection of luxury and ease, a spirit of vigorous ambition. They believed that these qualities came to boys more naturally than to men, and that it was therefore easier to nurture them and turn them into habits early in life. Men were seeking to cultivate the same “boyish” male essence in boys that they were trying to preserve or revive in their own adult selves. O f course, boys continued to maintain their own sort of folk culture, with customs, rites, and values that one age group passed on to the next. As adults demanded more of boys’ time and supervised it more closely, however, the culture of boyhood built itself increasingly around the team sports, the organized activities, and eventually the media images and symbols that grown men presented to boys. At the very time when the concepts of boyhood and manhood developed a closer, more organic re­ lationship, the phases of life called boyhood and manhood were set more clearly in relationship to one another. No longer opposites, manhood and boyhood were established as different stages in the development of the same male nature. Since manhood was no longer defined by its opposition to boyhood, its opposition to womanhood became that much more important, and even that relationship was in flux. While male and female remained contraiy m definition, the place of women and of femininity in a man’s life had become a delicate subject. That delicacy in itself would ultimately breed changes in the definition of manhood.

The Woman Within In the 1880s and 1890s, there were some bourgeois men who found themselves with new habits and pursuits that were marked “feminine.” Certain husbands were turning to their wives for intimacy and friend­ ship. Fathers were engaging more often in the lives of their children. There is also evidence to suggest that tum -of-the-centuiy men had be­ come involved in such domestic details as home decoration. Historian Margaret Marsh has pointed out that there was even an advice literature

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in this era which prescribed “masculine domesticity.”46 Yet this phrase in itself suggests trouble for men. Within the governing metaphors of gen­ der, masculine domesticity was a contradiction in tenns. It presumed that men could—and should—carry out female tasks for which their male nature did not fît them. If a man was spending more time at home exercising the skills which supposedly belonged to women, what kind of a man was he? Outside the domestic arena, other patterns of male experience were feeding mens self-doubt and confusion: the declining opportunity for manly autonomy in business and the professions; the rising tide of male neurasthenia m an era that viewed illness as a female weakness; and a new male preoccupation with rest and tranquility.47 Another symptom of femininity that crept into the lives of bourgeois males m the late nineteenth century was a growing fondness for leisure and ease. Henry Ward Beecher, the popular minister of the comfortable middle class, announced the value of leisured enjoyment as early as the 1850s. He told his Brooklyn congregation again and again: “You can af­ ford, when you have done your best, to take things easy and enjoy your­ self.”48 The new belief in enjoyment often expressed itself in private corre­ spondence. In 1885, long after he had achieved fame as a writer and minister, Edward Everett Hale vowed “to lead as leisure a life as is possi­ ble,—and, in short, be free of fancy to make myself a lazy gentleman of [fortune?], who has nothing to do but to have a good time.” Charles Van Hise could not muster such self-indulgent language, but even he—a man of austere habits and ferocious energy—could admit the value of pleasure. He expressed this feeling in an 1897 letter to his wife, Alice: “A good time in the highest sense is not to be laughed at especially as one does not live more than once, in this world at least.”49 Van Hise s reflec­ tions on pleasure, like those of Hale and Beecher, were not a call to li­ cense or debauchery, but a justification of enjoyment once hard work had brought success. Still, however measured these calls for fun may have been, they represented a new language of self-indulgence that vio­ lated republican tenets of manhood.50 The specter of femininity seemed to emerge from more and more of a mans activities and impulses late in the nineteenth century. These male desires violated middle-class expectations of manliness and so raised questions about the present status and future direction of man­ hood. Presumably men had possessed “feminine” tendencies throughout the nineteenth century, but something was encouraging their expression

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more strongly (or inhibiting their expression less effectively) as the cen­ tury drew to a close. Different tendencies undoubtedly had roots in dif­ ferent sources. The quest for domestic pleasures, for instance, may have been a response to the changes of opportunity in the middle-class work­ place, and the longing for repose may have reflected the accelerating pace of urban life. What brings these disparate tendencies together under one rubric is the issue of gender. We know that the expectations for the sexes that developed at the start of the centuiy were sharply contrasting, and that the symbolic spaces of the two spheres were clearly marked and highly distinct. Yet a boy lived in both of those spheres and was fully exposed to both sets of values. Indeed, at an early, impressionable age, he had closer, more ex­ tensive contact with women than with men, and part of a nineteenthcentury mother’s duty was to imprint her son with feminine values. To be sure, the boy later learned the values and patterns of behavior that his society labeled male, but they were laid over an earlier stratum of value and expectation that was considered female. For some boys, the male values became dominant;, for others, the female held sway; most often, the two existed in competition for a boys (and later a mans) loy­ alty. However he resolved the conflict, a middle-class male was always influenced by the femimne values that he learned in his most impres­ sionable years. If this analysis is correct, why did “femimne tendencies” of habit and thought emerge only in the late nineteenth century? After all, the con­ stellation of gender values and child-rearing patterns that we have de­ scribed here began to take shape around the start of the nineteenth cen­ tury. The fact is that, where the effects of child-rearing are concerned, there will be a lag of decades between a change in childhood circum­ stances and the points m adulthood where various effects become visi­ ble. Moreover, the entire system of values and institutions that shaped gender in the nineteenth centuiy did not snap into place as soon as the Century started. They coalesced as a system over a decade or two. Then, year by year, they began to affect larger and larger numbers of people as more Americans were drawn into the matrix of middle-class life. Evi­ dence suggests that, in the century’s early decades, mother-son bonds were growing closer while fathers were moving further from the family orbit. Signs of many of the feminine trends described here—early cases of neurasthenia, yearnings for enjoyment and repose, occasional exam­ ples of marital intimacy—were appearing in the 1850s, especially among men raised m the 1810s and 1820s. About a generation later, the femi­ nine tendencies arrived as a stronger, more visible cultural trend, with

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men bom m the 1840s to 1860s notably affected. At the same time, ex­ ternal factors that elicited the tendencies—factors such as changes of opportunity in the middle-class workplace—emerged in the last quarter of the century.51 The feminine traits in question here were not intrinsically a problem. But in a society that elevated gender to such a high level of moral and political meaning, a man with feminine qualities was bound to face diffi­ culties. The fear of womanly men became a significant cultural issue m the late nineteenth century, one discussed by men in a new, gendered language of manly scorn. Men in the late nineteenth century began to sort themselves out into hardy, masculine types and gentle, feminine types. To be sure, this exercise in mutual sorting had been going on throughout the century. From the good boys and the bad boys of boy culture to the gender-coding of professions, the sifting process reflected the importance of gender as a social principle. The process was espe­ cially complex for men when virtue was tied so closely to the opposite sex. For example, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the father of the president, endured the teasing of lus four older brothers about his purity and highmmded virtue. His brother Robert, an especially roguish fellow, dis­ dained him as their m others “darling innocent.”52 Since being manly and being good required such different behaviors, nineteenth-century men often sorted themselves (and each other) along a continuum between manliness and goodness. In the final decades of the centuiy, however, the terms of the sorting process began to change. First, virtue dropped out of the calculations. Autobiographies offer a clear measure of this shift in their treatm ent of “good” and “bad” boys. Memoirs written early in the century regarded boys just as their moral labels would suggest: a good boy was an exem­ plar of piety—and a rare occurrence; most boys were bad—brutish, sin­ ful, and weak in the face of temptation. Then, in the autobiographies written in the last third of the century, the meanings of the labels changed. The bad boy was now the hero: the vigorous, assertive lad with spirit and spunk. The good boy had become a sort of wan villain, a dull, weak, submissive husk of a child. The bad boy was manly, the good boy was effeminate, and virtue simply did not matter.53 Goodness no longer distinguished one male from another in the late nineteenth century. Now, vigor and assertiveness separated true men from the rest. The separation of males into the tough and the tender— the manly and the unmanly—produced cultural types in the late nine­ teenth centuiy that gained tremendous importance. Their resonance for

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men of that era can be found m men’s private writing. An 1889 letter from Richard Cabot to his future wife, Ella Lyman, deals with these two types at length. In the letter, Richard tried to explain the contrast be­ tween himself and Ella’s friend George Morison by describing what they did during the summer in the mountains: This life here in camp with its music and reading and writing and seeing people and sketching and paddling slowly round the edge of silent ponds.—imagine how he would hate it,—it suits me to a T. His long rough-camp excursions or tramps would be almost entirely tasteless and useless to me, the very salt of sane life gone—for him I see they are as good as camp is for me. So far Richard’s description was neutral: a vast gulf between two types—contemplative, quiescent, aesthetic; robust, dynamic, aggressive. But Richard went on to show which of them felt admirable and which infenor. He reported with a sense of apology that “I have always fancied [George] had to exercise charity not to look down on m e . . . . I only tell you all this, because it is a fair sample of one of my weak sides that I can­ not easily know such men as him and other hearty and straight-forward creatures.”34 Richard Cabot faced a problem that Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., had not confronted with his brothers. In the latter’s era, the contrast between the adventurous and the timid could be recast as that of the corrupt and the virtuous. By the 1880s, however, the standard of virtue did less to sup­ port the manly worth of one who lacked dash and vigor. Whatever his positive traits, Richard Cabot could not match up to “hearty, straightfor­ ward creatures.” A similar theme surfaced in an exchange of letters within the Eliot family of Massachusetts. Young Charles Eliot, who was just about to launch himself on a distinguished career as a landscape architect, was seized by self-doubt during a trip to Europe. As he considered his pro­ fessional future, he did not feel “so utterly incompetent” in “matters of theory and taste”; rather, it was “in the more practical affairs of the pro­ fession, and particularly m dealing with men, that I am nowhere.” He was slow to reach “definite opinions,” and that made him feel unsuited for the masculine give-and-take of professional life: “I am most at a loss when thrown with other men, I cannot think and at the same time talk and give attention. I am never at my ease,—indeed, I am as far as possi­ ble from being so___I know myself to be ill-made, or, as it were, an un­ baked loaf of the human bread-batch.”55

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The response from Charles’s father, one of Harvard’s most distin­ guished presidents, stressed their differences of character. The senior Eliot told his son: ‘T wish you were tough and strong like me.” His ad­ vice recognized that his son was less “tough and strong” than the average man: “Where other men work eight hours a day, you must be content with five.” Somewhat gratuitously, the father pointed out a few lines later: “I am strong and can work twelve hours a day.” He did emphasize the young man’s virtues, especially his “unusual capacity for enjoyment,” but, m doing so, he pointed out that “you closely resemble your mother.” In the fathers mind, he and his son both had admirable traits, but his were robust and manly while his son’s were sensitive and feminine.56 The Eliots, like Richard Cabot, were part of Bostons elite, but the contrast they presented between the strong and the sensitive man was common to less wealthy men as well. This is evident in the letters which James Cattell wrote to his father, Will. James often compared Will’s en­ ergy and ambition to his own reticence and indecision. Will was an offi­ cial of the Presbyterian Church—a minister and a former college presi­ dent—while James was a graduate student who staunchly resisted his fa­ ther’s efforts to obtain him a university professorship. After receiving a letter m which the older man had criticized a relative with diffuse ambi­ tions, the younger man replied, “I cannot help smiling sadly, Papa, whenever you describe Cousin Jo to me for I know that you are however unconsciously, talking and writing at me.” James felt that he— reflective and uncertain—compared poorly with his forceful, decisive father: “You are a remarkable man. Papa, for you have a strong intellect and .. char­ acter, and your affections are not wishy-washy, but a temperament like yours is apt—say m the second generation—to degenerate.”57 lik e other men of his time, Cattell leaned on powerful new cultural types. His generation in particular—men bom from the 1840s to the 1860s—became preoccupied with the contrast between the strong, as­ sertive man and the gentle contemplative one.56 The preoccupation was rooted in personal experiences and reflections like those of Cabot, Eliot, and Cattell, but other men began to elaborate pnvate types into public archetypes. By the twentieth century, the two cultural types had become a popular metaphor, a simple cluster of symbols that ordered and ex­ plained great matters of human life and society. One thinker who seized on this metaphor was William James. James was a neurasthenic, a contemplative man averse to physical action, a man who stayed at home on grounds of health while his peers fought m the Civil War.50 In other words, James came naturally to the theme of the assertive and the reflective. In developing the concepts of the

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“tender-minded” and the “tough-minded,” James expanded this personal motif into a grand philosophical typology. In 1906 and 1907, James delivered a senes of lectures that became the keystone of pragmatism, Americas most distinguished school of for­ mal thought. He used the first lecture to describe two philosophical temperaments which, he said, were reconciled by pragmatism. One temperament preferred an empirical, materialist approach to problems, the other an abstract, idealist approach. James chose to call the former “tough-minded” and the latter “tender-mmded.” Living in a time when men were preoccupied with their own toughness and tenderness, James’s choice of words was significant. He was speaking in a language that would resonate with other men’s experience.60 Symbolically, James was integrating the male and female in philoso­ phy and perhaps within himself as well. As he did tins, he strove to be neutral—and he succeeded partially. His formal analysis recognized the values and problems of both the tough-minded and the tender, yet the structure of the first lecture betrayed a need to criticize the tenderminded more extensively. After treating briefly die shortcomings of tough-minded empiricism, James devoted nearly half of the lecture to his frustrations with the abstract idealism of the tender-minded.61 If an observer intent on neutrality tilted toward the tough, it is not surprising that other men with more partiality than James praised the tough at die expense of the tender. In elaborating these cultural types into a metaphor with broad explanatory power, commentators turned male tenderness from a mixed blessing or a personal flaw into a social danger. Theodore Roosevelt saw the tender, scrupulous man as a direat to die nation, and the tough, assertive one as a national savior. The basic for­ mula of his “Strenuous Life” speech—a formula he repeated countless times in the early twentieth centuiy—was to attack the man of gentle scruples as a symbol and cause of national decline, and dien embody the countiy’s greatest virtues m the man of bold assertiveness.62 A typical version of Roosevelt’s attack runs like this: The timid man, the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the overcivilized man, who has lost the great fighting, masterful virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mmd, whose soul is incapable of feel­ ing the mighty lift that thrills “stem men widi empires m their brains”— all these shrink from seeing the nation undertake its new duties. These are the men who fear the strenuous life, who fear the only national life which is really worth leading. They believe in that cloistered life which saps the hardy virtues in a nation, as it saps them in the indi­ vidual.63

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By contrast, Roosevelt insisted that the “highest form of success” would come “to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hard­ ship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.” To Roosevelt, that triumph was the achievement “of true na­ tional greatness,” and m the context from which he spoke, such great­ ness meant a dominant role in world politics.64 Men of tender minds and gentle spirits hesitated to take on that role. Another sweeping use of the tough-and-tender contrast came from the thinking of psychologist G. Stanley Hall. He claimed, in a less direct fash­ ion than Roosevelt, that the gentle, restrained male—and the array of symbolic forces that created him—were a threat to civilization, if not to the progress of evolution itself. In his groundbreaking work on personal development. Hall subscribed to the theoiy of recapitulation, the idea that the individual human developed m stages that repeated the evolu­ tion of the species. Significantly, Hall marked off separate tracks for male and female development. It was in tracing those two separate courses that he came to focus on the effeminate male and the manly male. A highly developed differentiation of the sexes, in Halls view, was both a sign of and a necessity for civilization. The penod of life in which sex difference emerged was the period on which Hall focused his atten­ tion: adolescence. To Hall, adolescence was “a very critical period” when “modem man” built “a new and higher story . . . upon the basis of the older foundation of humanity.” It was crucial, he believed, that the pe­ nod of adolescence grew longer “as we proceed from barbaric to civi­ lized man,” because the richer complexity of true civilization took longer to mature. Hall also considered this a critical penod because develop­ ment in adolescence was more easily arrested than in earlier childhood, and an arrest m this period was harder to make up at another stage.65 Thus, the vital process of sex differentiation had to go forward smoothly at this stage if individual development and human evolution were to progress. Hall said of adolescent development, “Differentiation ought to be pushed to the very uttermost and everything should be wel­ comed that makes men more manly and women more womanly; while, on the other hand, all that makes for identity is degenerative.”66 Thus, by Hall’s definition, feminine traits in a teenage boy (or masculine traits in a teenage girl) were threats to progress and marks of developmental fail­ ure. An adolescent boy with a feminine character was simply degener­ ate. In other words, a tender-minded boy with a gentle, reflective nature was an evolutionary mistake, clearly infenor to his tougher, more as­ sertive peers. As Hall said, a teenage male who is “a perfect gentleman has something the matter with him.”

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The idea that human culture might in any way affect sex differentia­ tion—or the way in which manly and womanly are defined—was anadiema to Hall. He insisted that “natural segregation has pervaded every stage of history and eveiy form of society from savagely up, and has an immense momentum of heredity behind it. It is not merely custom and tradition, as feminists are wont to assume, but the authoritative voice of nature herself.”6' By Halls logic, feminists—and their male sympathiz­ ers—were blind to heredity, deaf to nature, and an impediment to civi­ lization. According to Hall, the restrained youth and the assertive youth were more than neutral images—they were moral symbols in the progress of the human race. Thus, the tender, reflective male and the tough, assertive one became cultural symbols as well as social types. The former not only bore the so­ cial stigma of male femininity in a society that elevated gender separa­ tion to the highest level of principle, but he also was a threat to his na­ tion and even to the progress of human civilization. To have too much of “the woman within” was a personal problem for a man in the late nine­ teenth century. More than that, it made him a living symbol, a moral and social mistake. The issue of the feminized male found a reflection in the changing language of manhood—and that language, in turn, provided an ongoing framework in which the issue was defined. The change is most visible in the language of politics. Because the political arena was by law a male club throughout the nineteenth century, politicians often used gendered imagery to mark the bounds of acceptable behavior—and to place their opponents outside those bounds. The history of those terms of scorn re­ veals crucial changes in the identification of men with women. Male femininity as a part of American political language had its roots in republicanism. Luxury, idleness, and materialism were scorned by republicans as effeminate. By association, anstocratic pretensions were a-mark of effeminacy. Thus, in the nation s early history, republi­ can simplicity was manly, and the self-mdulgence of the rich was wom­ anly.68 Charges of effeminacy became most extreme—and most effec­ tive—after the vote was extended to all white males, regardless of property. In 1828, the Jacksonians used the issue of class resentment effectively against John Quincy Adams, when they charged him with bringing ef­ feminate luxuries and amusements into the White House. The taint of anstocratic vice as a marker of unmanliness worked so well in smearing Adams that the Jacksonians came back to it again m their assault on the

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national bank. Martin Van Buren, for instance, produced a gem of gen­ dered republican rhetoric. He charged that national banking tended: to produce throughout society a chain of dependence, to nourish m pref­ erence to the manly virtues that give dignity to human nature, a craving desire for luxurious enjoyment and sudden wealth, which renders those who seek them dependent on those who supply them; to substitute for republican simplicity and economical habits a sickly appetite for effemi­ nate indulgence.09 As political historians have long noted, the opponents of Jackson then hung Van Buren with his own noose in the election of 1840. They la­ beled him successfully as an effeminate man with perfumed sidewhiskers, golden spoons, and corsets to hide his ample girth.70 In the antebellum era, politicians also discovered that reformers from outside the political system made npe targets for gender-laden con­ tempt. Male abolitionists were accused of fighting “from behind the whale-bone and cotton padding of their female allies.”71 Even though re­ form causes shifted after the Civil War, the imagery of unmanliness con­ tinued to stick to reformers. George William Curtis, a leader of the Lib­ eral Republicans who sought to cleanse the party of corruption, was, in 1877, the target of one of the most famous political attacks of that era. Roscoe Conkling, chieftain of the New York Republican Party, asked a party gathering: “Who are these men who are cracking their whips over Republicans and playing school-master to the Republican party and its conscience and convictions?” He answered his own question with devas­ tating effect: “Some of them are the man-milliners, the dilettanti and carpet knights of politics. They forget that parties are not built by de­ portment, or by ladies’ magazines or by gush.”72 At the surface, Conkling was reminding Curtis and his reform allies that politics was a man’s world, run by sterner principles than sentiment and good manners. Beneath that, he was using references to deport­ ment, carpets, and ladies’ magazines to associate reformers with the par­ lor society of women: they liked women and were like women. But in his use of the term man-milliner (the word for which the speech is most often remembered), Conkling was suggesting more than an association with women—for milliner alone would have done that. By using manmilliner, Conkling evoked the idea of a “man-woman.”73 In the rhetoric of unmanliness, Conkling was participating in a signifi­ cant change. The early nineteenth-century charges of effeminacy were

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usually applied to abstractions (“effeminate virtue,” “effeminate indul­ gence”), not to people.74 But new forms of figurative language connect­ ing men with femininity became popular in the late nineteenth century, forms that unsexed a man, made him bisexual, or turned him into a woman. The most popular of these figures, which we might call the “third-sex” metaphors, created a large gray area between man and woman where male and female reformers existed. These freaks were sometimes por­ trayed as eunuchs, sometimes as hermaphrodites, and sometimes as a monstrous new sex unto itself. An 1886 diatribe against reformers by Senator John Ingalls of Kansas provides a vivid example. Male reformers “sing falsetto,” he said; they were “effeminate without being either mas­ culine or feminine; unable to beget or bear; possessing neither fecundity nor virility; endowed with the contempt of men and the derision of women, and doomed to sterility, isolation, and extinction.”75 Few charges of sexual ambiguity were so nchly embellished as those of Senator Ingalls, but he was by no means the creator of tins invective style. It was applied before the Civil War to women abolitionists (“un­ sexed females”), and after the war it was used frequently against mem­ bers of either sex who favored womens suffrage or any other sort of political reform. Reformers were “long-haired men and short-haired women.” If the dream of woman suffrage came true, women would “be­ come taller and more brawny, and get bigger hands and feet, and a heav­ ier weight of brain.” Rand and foot size seemed a special concern of those who followed the sexual transformation of reformers: a “mug­ wump” reformer was “a man who has small hands, small feet, a receding chm and a culture much above his intellect.” In sum, the men who guarded the political arena imagined that acting on reform impulses un­ sexed a person.76 At the same time, a more direct and less mysterious transformation of sexual language was taking place. Some unmanly men, instead of being compared to women, were now called women. An early example of this shift to metaphor came in an 1850 medical journal, where an article spoke derisively of “the prudish Miss Nancies of Buffalo.”77 The men m question here were not like Miss Nancy—they were “Miss Nancies.” This was a popular term of contempt in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and received its most famous usage in 1916 when Theodore Roosevelt, disgusted with Woodrow Wilsons refusal to enter the Great War, referred to the president as a “white-handy Miss Nancy.” Similar terms, such as old maid and Mary Jane, became common during the late nineteenth centuiy. Moreover, sometimes women's names were

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dropped in favor of simply calling a man a woman. For example, William Dean Howells noted that, in post-Civil War America, the professional writer was ridiculed as a “kind of mental and moral woman, to whom a real man, a businessman, could have nothing to say after the primary po­ litenesses.”78 A slightly less direct word became the most popular of all female terms for men—sissy. Originally a slang term for “little sister,” it did not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary with reference to a male until the 1890s. Then, suddenly, four such usages appear and all of them come from the United States. Americans quickly seized on the word with an enthusiasm that suggests the fulfillment of a great need. At the turn of the centuiy, a Massachusetts newspaper published an article on “sissyism” and struck such a responsive chord that several other newspa­ pers and magazines printed their own speculations. When Rafford Pyke wrote an article for Cosmopolitan in 1902 on “What Men Like in Men,” he made a digression about sissies that took up more than a third of the essay, well over a thousand words. In the minds of most people, said Pyke, a sissy was weak, slender, smooth-faced—like a woman; he was “polite and rather anxious to please”—like a woman; he was timid—like a woman; he was submissive—like a woman; and he especially liked the company of women. Given this description, it is little wonder that such a man was simply given a female label.79 As gendered terms of contempt switched in this fashion from simile to metaphor, the locus of a man s femininity shifted from external to in­ ternal, from likeness to identity. This was not historical accident. This shift happened m the late nineteenth century when men were discover­ ing feminine habits and attitudes within themselves, encountenng their own deep identification with female figures, contrasting tough and ten­ der men to the detriment of the tender, and elaborating the toughtender contrasts into grand metaphors in which feminine qualities in a man posed a threat to the nation and to human progress. At the histori­ cal moment when women seemed ready to break down the barriers be­ tween separate spheres, men were trying to redraw the Unes of manly and womanly traits within the ranks of their own sex. To do this at a time when men seemed acutely aware of “the woman within” created painful problems. In a society where gender distinctions seemed more important (and perhaps more sharply drawn) than ever, how could a man live comfort­ ably with his own feminine side? The neurasthenic cycle could provide an outlet for men’s inner division between the male and the female— with a vacation, rest, relaxation, perhaps a time of toughening, and then

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a return to work giving a man an excursion through women’s proper pur­ suits and back mto men’s. In many cases, this meant ideas or patterns of work that focused on the conquest of feminine weakness. Certainly, the theories of former neurasthenics Theodore Roosevelt and G. Stanley Hall can be viewed m this light. The cult of chivalry offered another approach to this gender dilemma. Already strong in the antebellum North, this phenomenon reached its peak at the end of the nineteenth century.86 The chivalnc fantasy encouraged men to pursue virtuous, feminine aims by manly, aggressive means. In the political arena, the progressives acted out this fantasy of the Christian Soldier—but, sensitive to the way in which previous gener­ ations of reformers had been, mocked by charges of effeminacy, male progressives often adopted a rhetorical tone that was stndently mascu­ line. Studies of individual progressive males show that they came from especially sheltered domestic environments where they were infused with values and habits their society denoted as feminine.81 The tone and direction of the movement was affected from beginning to end by the struggles of men who sought to escape from “the woman within” even as they tried to appease her. The progressive solution to this configuration of gender, politics, cul­ ture, and psychology seemed to run its course by 1920. This same gener­ ation, however, in its fevered attempts to deal with internalized feminine values, left a more lasting legacy to the definition of manhood, based on the manner in which men of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries responded to the homosexual communities then emerging in the nations great cities.

The Soul of a Woman in the Body of a Man The late nineteenth century marked a watershed m the history of homo­ sexuality in the United States. The two major developments were: the growth of areas in major cities where those interested in sexual relations with members of their own sex could meet and develop a sense of com­ munity: and a distinct change in the way society viewed that sexual be­ havior and those people. In the rapidly growing cities of the early nineteenth centuiy, people with an abiding erotic interest in others of their own sex had begun to find each other. With so many humans gathered in one place, those with a same-sex orientation enjoyed an anonymity that would have been im­ possible in small towns. Besides, large cities, by their veiy size, were

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more likely to have a critical mass of residents who wanted to engage m forbidden forms of behavior. Also, acts of same-sex love, although they were illegal, were rarely prosecuted m major urban areas before the Civil War.88 Then, in the decades after the war, the situation changed. W hether from constant accretion of numbers or from growing internal cohesion, homosexual communities became more visible.85 By the 1880s, prosecu­ tion became more frequent in large cities, and medical and social scien­ tists developed a great interest in same-sex eroticism. These scholars began to shift the focus of attention from homosexual acts to the people who engaged m them. This shift from the act to the person coincided with an attem pt to develop a more precise theory of what caused homo­ sexual desire. At first, the dominant belief was that homosexuality was a degenerative disease, then, early in the new century, the consensus shifted to the idea that homosexuality was in-bom.84 These theories had two important implications for the common view of homosexuals. The first was a change of understanding that shifted the roots of such desire from outside of nature—as late as 1866 it was called a “crime” that was “unnatural”—to a condition with natural causes.85 The shift is indicated in a statement made in 1882 by a man struggling to deal with his love for other men, who believed that there are “those who are forced bv nature to follow the inclinations of a diseased and per­ verted instinct.”86 If homosexuality had natural, biological causes, it could no longer be seen as an episodic visitation from without. Now, it was a desire from within that formed a continuous part of a person’s physical makeup. In­ stead of identifying the event (“unnatural act,” “crime against nature,” “sodomy”) as the core of same-sex eroticism, the descriptive language turned its emphasis to the individual. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, a w'hole new set of words came into being (degener­ ate, pervert, invert, fairy, homosexual) which labeled the person as the essence of the homoerotic. In less than a generation, the language for this phenomenon transformed itself into a language of personal iden­ tity.87 Most of these new words issued from the ideas of the scholars and physicians,88 but the outside experts were not alone m building the per­ ception of homosexuality as a social and personal identity. In these same years, men and women whose sexual desires focused on their own sex began to think of themselves as separate social groups. Those who lived in large cities formed communities within the whole, an experience that fostered a sense of “us” and “them .” As John D ’Emilio and Estelle

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Freedman have written, such “women and men were self-consciously departing from the norm and creating a social milieu that nurtured their emergent sense of identity.” This notion that a person’s sexual nature de­ term ined the person’s personal and social identity was part of a larger current of thought. Havelock Ellis, the eminent British sexologist, ex­ pressed the growing belief of his American counterparts that “sex pene­ trates the whole person; a man’s sexual constitution is part of his general constitution. There is considerable truth in the dictum: ‘A man is what his sex is.’”80 If one’s sexuality defined one’s identity and one’s true inner self, then what was the true nature of male homosexuality?00 How, that is, did ob­ servers and homosexuals themselves interpret the meaning of this newly defined identity? The answer is that both groups equated male homo­ sexuality with womanhood. George Beard, the neurasthenia expert, summarized the view of many interested observers in 1884 when he wrote that those for whom “the sex [instinct] is perverted . . . hate the opposite sex and love their own; men become women and women men, in their tastes, conduct, character, feelings, and behavior.”01 The com­ ments of Chicago vice investigators in 1911 typify the observations of those who described homosexual men. Such “inverts” “mostly affect the carnage, mannensms, and speech of women [and] .. are fond of many articles dear to die feminine heart.”92 The statements of some male homosexuals themselves are actually quite close to those of the men who studied them.93 They echoed the German lawyer who defended the morality of his fellow homosexuals, asserting that they had women’s souls trapped in the bodies of men. An American man put the same idea in different words when he said that “my feelings are exactly those of a woman. .. As near as I can explain it, I am a woman in every detail except external appearances.” Other men expressed the same feelings in action. At drag balls and parties and at clubs where male prostitutes worked, men dressed as women, called each other by women’s names, and sometimes spoke or sang in womanly falsetto.94 Thus, the observations of the late nineteenth-centuiy men who stud­ ied male homosexuals coincided with the testimony and behavior of some of the men they studied on a fundamental point: male homosexuals were like men who became women. Even when observers misidentified a man’s sexual orientation, their mistakes revealed the same bias. Some transvestites were heterosexual in their object choice, hut because they dressed like women, they were mistaken for homosexuals; and men who assumed the “male” roles in same-sex relationships were often identified

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as “straight.” In both cases of confused identification, the confusion grew out of the same assumption: that a male homosexual was a man who looked and acted like a woman, not a man who engaged in homo­ sexual activity.95 This was a natural—and revealing—assumption in an era when men were preoccupied with the woman inside the man. Where homosexual­ ity had been seen as an evil event, with its roots outside of human na­ ture, now the act itself became an expression of a broader personal iden­ tity, a revelation of an inner essence. That essence was a statement about gender. Homosexuality, like any other erotic urge or activity, takes on the trappings provided for it by the culture in which it appears. The trap­ pings that middle-class culture provided in the late nineteenth century were outgrowths of its obsession with—and anxiety about—gender. The drag balls and parties of the homosexual community and the female im­ personation in amateur theatricals at colleges and mens clubs can be seen as similar expressions of a fascination with “the woman within.” We have seen that there were many outlets for m ens feminine attitudes and impulses, ranging from the cycle of neurasthenic breakdowns to the “womens” reform role played by many progressives. The emergence of male homosexuality in its modern form was in two different ways an ex­ pression of the woman within. For men with powerful homoerotic urges and female identifications, the role of the effeminate homosexual served to express those identifications and urges. For men with strong female identifications and homoerotic urges that were controllable, weak, or only feared or suspected, the categorizing and conceptualization of the homosexual provided an outlet—a screen onto which men could project their unacceptable urges and identifications. Indeed, there was a bond of sorts between those male homosexuals who were effeminate and their observers/labelers. Just as certain ama­ teur theatricals were based on the link between the men who liked to play women and the spectators who were fascinated to see a woman played by a man, so the emerging definition of the homosexual as a male woman was based on a bond between some homosexual men who liked to project femininity and the scholar/spectator who needed to see a woman played by a man. It was no accident that the effeminate homo­ sexual and lus official observer both described him as a woman in the body of a man, for they were drawing on the same cultural obsession of the woman within. Nor was it an accident that the male homosexual who played the man’s role was often excluded from the emerging public defi­ nition of homosexual. For this new definition was about more than ho-

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moeroticism—it was about a need to create a categoiy of person who could represent m ens unacceptable feminine impulses. It was also about the preoccupation of bourgeois culture with dividing all things (in­ cluding the male sex) into male and female—and then applying its own set of gender roles to the division. Thus, the male homosexuals who attracted public attention m the late nineteenth century provided a sort of mirror to the men who examined them. These particular homosexuals developed an identity for them ­ selves, that drew on the same fund of images and anxieties that their ob­ servers used. It was their observers, however, who defined homosexual identity m the eyes of die larger society. And that identity reflected The image of the male homosexual played an especially important role m the redefinition of middle-class manhood that was taking place at the turn of the century. The effeminate homosexual provided a negative referent for the new masculinity, with its heavy emphasis on the physical marks of manliness. The emergent homosexual image soon acquired an awesome power to stigmatize. By die turn of die century, men were using the same terms of scorn for homosexual males that they used for artistic, tender-minded, or reformist men. For instance, the terms Nancy and Miss Nancy, which were already labels for heterosexual men who were insufficiendy manly, were in use by 1899 as names for homo­ sexual men.96 The homosexual male and the man who was insufficiently manly were understood in the same figures of speech. The latter was a sissy, an old maid—metaphorically, he was a woman. The former had die soul of a woman trapped in the body of a man; he and his land were “men be­ come women.” The longer the association lasted between the homosex­ ual and the unmanly man, the greater the power of the homosexual label to stigmatize any man.97 The stigma gained insidiousness from the modem notion that sexual “inversion” was not a beastly moral failure or an unnatural visitation, but a natural condition that might be lurking in anyone, regardless of the in­ dividuals purity or moral vigilance. This added urgency to a mans desire to distinguish himself from the homosexual. The more he feared he might be one of the stigmatized group, die more he needed to prove himself a man or—what was more difficult—come to terms with what was not manly about himself. Romantic friendship disappeared, as the sharp line was drawn between homosexual and heterosexual. Men with artistic sensitivities often cultivated a manly veneer; parents packed their sons off to boxing lessons or summer camps. Where the defining oppo-

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sites of manhood had once been womanhood and boyhood, now they were womanhood and male homosexuality (the identity of the man who is a woman). This change did not happen instantly. Men were still insulted by the epithet boy, and the slur of homosexuality did not develop all at once the devastating impact that it would possess by the late twentieth century. Still, though the stigma of homosexuality took time to reach its present status, it was a serious enough charge against someone’s manhood even in the earliest years of the century. The creation of the homosexual image produced a deadly new weapon for maintaining the boundaries of manhood. Effeminacy had always been a troublesome accusation; now its force was becoming ruinous.

individualism and Expressions of the Male Self From the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth, the importance of the individual self grew constantly as the focus of American society and culture. But the history of the individual self during this period is re­ ally two distinct, if related, histories. One of these is the stoiy of that au­ tonomous social being, the “individual.” The individual is a creature in relation to the state, the law, and the economy, a citizen and a public actor more than an inner being; its conceptual form in the nineteenth century owes most to the ideas of John Locke. Then there is a second and very different story, the history of the passionate or “romantic” self. Expressed in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the self is a spir­ itual and emotional concept, a secular version of the soul: the inner­ most core of the person, unique to each human being, the deepest substance that is left when all the layers of artifice and social conven­ tion are stripped away.98 The contrasts are obvious: the individual is so­ cial, outward-facing; the personal self is inward-facing. Still, the two are related m fundamental ways. Historically, both moved dramatically out of the entanglement of custom and tradition during the late eigh­ teenth century. Both can be seen as expressions of the American belief that the autonomous person is the basic unit of society and the ulti­ mate source of cultural value. Nevertheless, the two concepts are quite distinct and have very dif­ ferent histories m relation to gender. In the United States, individualism emerged as a governing idea in economics, politics, and law during the late eighteenth century. At the heart of individualism as Americans prac­ ticed it was the competitive pursuit of self-interest. Americans devel-

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oped economic and political systems to harness competitive individual­ ism for the creation of the greatest good. We have seen, however, that in practice this was a gender-specific idea. People feared the social sideeffects of unrestrained individualism and constructed the metaphorical system of separate spheres to contain the damage wrought by the unchecked individual. Individualism was treated as a male phenomenon, while women were charged with control of the damage it might do to so­ cial relations and to personal well-being. The public pursuit of self-interest was denied to women. The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 used the language of one of individualism’s sa­ cred texts—the Declaration o f Independence—to demand full individ­ ual rights for wom en." Men, however, feared the destruction of social order and even sexual difference if they gave women those nghts or al­ lowed them full access to the learned professions and the business world. In the early twentieth century, even as women were achieving the right to vote, individualism was still a largely male prerogative. The histoiy of the passionate or romantic self is quite distinct from the histoiy of individualism. The growing obsession with romantic love in the early nineteenth century did suggest that the cultural value of the passionate self was rising; but middle-class Americans of the 1800s often viewed the inner movings of the self with Calvinistic suspicion. As a re­ sult, the passionate self in the nineteenth century was not a source of ex­ pression so much as an object of manipulation. Words in common use during the nineteenth century—self-made, self-control, self-interest, selfgovernment, self-abuse—reveal a strong and varied habit of manipulat­ ing the personal self to meet other ends. The history of the passionate self in the nineteenth century was just as gendered a history as that of individualism. The male self was a particu­ lar object of suspicion, full of selfishness, tyranny, and lust. The mner woman—tender, kind, limited in carnal feeling, though given to ease and vanity—merited trust far more than the inner man. While men were expected to assert their bold, competitive nature, and women felt a de­ mand for their tenderness and virtue, self-expression was thought dan­ gerous unless it was carefully channeled. In this context, the intimacy ex­ pected in a nineteenth-century courtship made troublesome demands. It required deep self-revelation, which presented a struggle for men and sometimes even for women.100 As the nineteenth century drew to a close, middle-class attitudes to­ ward self-expression changed dramatically. This change revealed itself in several realms of life. One was courtship. Self-expression had long been a prominent goal of couples, but the goal had always been described m

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terms of “candor” and “sincerity.” At the end of the century, men and women in love began to speak the language of self-expression directly. Vernon Wright, a young architect, told his fiancée in 1899, “it is good to know and share our innermost consciousness and we need more than anything else to get acquainted—to really know our own and each others true selves.” The drive for self-expression appeared in many other settings. As Hemy Seidel Canby recalls it in his autobiography, he and his friends at the turn of the century “were typical of an American mood, of a new generations resolve to get closer to real desires.” After the turn of the century, self-expression became an imperative for parents and children alike. “Self-expression for youth is supposed to have brought about the great change in family life,” writes Canby. “It was a cause, but an equally powerful one was self-expression for parents.”101 As some middle-class Americans at the turn of the century began to press for assertion of the passionate self in the face of social custom, for­ mal thinkers were taking a similar position. In 1905, William James avowed his “faith in personal freedom and its spontaneity” against the “herding and branding, licensing and degree-giving, authorizing and ap­ pointing” that was typical of “civilization.” During this penod, a new generation of Americans was avidly reading the work of such pioneering sexual theorists as Havelock Ellis. Historians John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman have written that Ellis saw sexuality as “the wellspring of an individual's nature.” In this context, sexual expression became the ex­ pression of a person’s deepest self.102 Thus, the history of the personal self in the United States was taking a sharp swing at the turn of the century. Where middle-class culture had treated the passionate self as somewhat suspect and an object for manip­ ulation, now it held this self in high esteem, and viewed it as a source of pnde, pleasure, creativity, and personal worth. Yet the new self-expression often meant different things for the two sexes. Mens call for greater passion, their rebellion against “feminized civilization,” and their wish for access to the “animal” and the “primitive” inside of themselves can all be understood in terms of a desire to express more of the male “essence.” Those rougher passions had been so harshly censured by official middle-class culture that, in the later years of the century, men lashed back. They wanted their “true self’ to receive some honor, and they wanted greater freedom to play—at home, among fnends, in the wilderness, or on the golf course. These men also wanted to create institutions to nurture what they felt was valuable but threat­ ened in a boy’s true character.

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Men were largely successful in this drive for self-expression. Compe­ tition, boldness, ambition—passions that had violated the nineteenth century’s official, republican code of manhood—became desirable quali­ ties. Moreover, these men succeeded m creating institutional forms for their self-expressive impulses: country clubs, boys’ organizations, huge sports stadia, and the beginnings of the "weekend” (a custom which started with shortened hours on Saturdays for some executives and pro­ fessionals).1